The Hanlon Expressway Debate

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Written by Bre Walt

The Ministry of Transportation has hired Stantec Consulting Ltd. to conduct a yearlong study, costing $5 million, on upgrading the Hanlon Expressway between Maltby Road and the Speed River. The highway has six intersections and it is expected that traffic will become even more congested when the Hanlon Creek Business Park is opened, near Laird Road.

The ministry is envisioning the highway becoming non-stop and therefore eliminating the six sets of streetlights that are at intersections like the ones at Kortright and Stone Road. There will be an environmental assessment within the study and there are likely to be numerous public meetings on the subject come April and May.

Final plans could include overpasses or full interchanges with multiple ramps. Kevin Bentley, the city’s engineering manager, notes that talks have also started as to whether the city and the ministry could share some costs, specifically of an interchange that is likely coming soon to Laird Road.
City Councillors are split on this issue; for example, Ward one councilor Bob Bell believes it is premature to worry about traffic near the Hanlon Creek Business Park before it is even up and running.

Ward 5 Councillor Lise Burcher and Ward 3 Councillor Maggie Laidlaw are not impressed with the plans to update the Hanlon. Both emphasize the need for us to look to other options when it comes to transportation. The high cost and dwindling supply of gasoline will see highways such as this give way to alternatives such as mass transit systems, predicts Laidlaw. Laidlaw and Burcher agree that spending millions on this is shortsighted, when the focus should be on creating a combination of ways of moving people and goods, such as buses and light rail systems.

Burcher and Laidlaw have it right, in my opinion. We are living in an era where we need to look further than major highways that split through a city. They are both rational and correct when saying that we need to focus the time, money and energy on improving alternative means of transit, given that we will soon not be living in the “oil age”. Is spending millions of dollars on highway improvement a good way to go when we should really be focusing on conservation methods, and alternate transport systems.

The traffic on the Hanlon expressway increased by 40% between 1994 and 2004, and given that we live in a progressive and proactive city, we need to be looking towards strategies to cut down on single-car traffic.

According to the Ministry of Transportation, in 1994, the Hanlon north of Maltby Road carried 15,500 vehicles a day, increasing to 35,100 vehicles north of College Avenue. In 2004, the corresponding figures were 23,000 and 42,000 respectively.

Our priorities should not be to improve highways so they might fit more cars. We need to be looking at ways that we can discourage individuals from driving an empty car. We need massive improvements on our transportation questions, we need campaigns to inform people about the coming oil crisis, and we need to put our money where our mouth is when it comes to energy conservation. We need to be the leaders that we always have been in Guelph and focus our energy on initiatives that are more sustainable than one such as this.

| More


Back to Top
  1. Posted by: Mike on Mar 14, 2007 @ 1:13pm

    In my opinion, it is irrational to think that people are going to give up the freedom to drive themselves, even in the face of the oil crisis. The fact is that a large number of people commute in their own vehicles because it is more convenient. Irresponsible? Yes, I would agree to some degree that it is, but on the same note, once all of our oil is gone, highways will remain as will vehicles, it's not like all cars will disappear once the oil is gone and yes we will still need the Hanlon. With the advent of new technologies and alternative fuels I think the transportation infrastructures will get good use well into the future.

  2. Posted by: Gillian on Mar 15, 2007 @ 8:54am

    I agree with Mike, to a certain degree. It's the convenience that drives our current car-culture. I think that simply having "disappearing" oil will not lead to a shift towards mass transit. Mass transit itself must become a more efficient to the individual, more convenient system in order to be seen as more beneficial than driving an individual car.

    In that way, I agree with councillors Laidlaw and Burcher in that the MTO should be directing money towards more sustainable forms of transit as a priority, not supporting a habit we know to be destructive.

  3. Posted by: joe on Mar 15, 2007 @ 11:20am

    sounds liek the 70's all over again. and what happened in the 80's?

  4. Posted by: Bre on Mar 16, 2007 @ 12:01am

    Hey Gillian,

    Good comment. But I take your point, and the fact that we really do need to be improving our alternate forms of transport means that is where the money should be going.

    In order to make mass transit more convenient, money needs to be injected into the system.


  5. Posted by: John L on Mar 17, 2007 @ 4:45pm

    Sort of a damned if you do/damned if you don't scenario. If the Hanlon becomes incapable of handling the volume of cars on it the result will be enormous gridloock/idling and pollution; not a good thing so there's an argument to upgrade it. On the other hand if it is upgraded that makes it far more convenient to use and encourages urban sprawl. I'd imagine there's considerable need to considerable work on this issue before coming down on either side with any credibility.

  6. Posted by: alex on Mar 19, 2007 @ 11:53am

    Although I do respect them, I think that Laidlaw and Burcher have their heads in the clouds on this one. The Hanlon is a literal "park"way of heavy stop-go traffic, with plenty of idling. Although we all know that public transit is a solution, it is unreasonable to expect that everyone would take the city bus to work. There has been public transportation for the last century, and it still has not caught on outside of major urban centres because it removes a great degree of freedom for the passenger. This is NOT a major urban centre, and so an efficient bus service is not feasible - unless we get a more socialist government! There will always be cars, and there will always be a need for a quality highway. Maybe rather than harping on outdated ideals our councillors should support progressive technologies, such as "green" cars - and let's gets some green buses too!

Share your thoughts

Bookstore First Year