The Aberdeen Avenue road diet will be allowed to proceed. In contrast to the raucous Pubic Works meeting last week, Council today was a model of decorum. It had looked like there would be a move by council to reconsider its June 2019 approval of the plan to narrow Aberdeen Avenue to two lanes by allowing two lanes of parking. Between last Friday and today’s meeting it was obvious there had been some public mobilization underway. A number of new letters appeared on the council agenda supporting the road diet including letters from both the Kirkendall and Durand neighbourhood associations. Several councillors also referred to extensive social media and email traffic. So at today’s City Council meeting Councillor Terry Whitehead, somewhat surprisingly withdrew, his opposition to the pilot, saying he would allow the pilot to go ahead even though he claimed to have the two-thirds majority of council votes needed to overturn the approval.
The pilot will be under close scrutiny however. Pilot projects at Hamilton often are a pro-forma precursor to permanent policies. Several councillors expressed concern that the current COVID pandemic could skew the results of the six-month pilot, since traffic levels have been lower since the outbreak began. Councillor Lloyd Ferguson reiterated his opposition to the calming measure pointing out as he did at last week’s Public Works meeting, that arterial roads are a city wide issue, not a ward issue. Whitehead and Ferguson both had claimed in past that the calming on Aberdeen has repercussions in the mountain wards they represent.
In approving the decision to allow the pilot to proceed, Councillor Tom Jackson paid tribute to Whitehead, who he said had been the recipient of a lot of unfair blowback for his opposition to the project. For his part, Whitehead who had been the focus of criticism for his behavior at last week’s Public Works meeting, culminating with his removal from the meeting. Waved an olive branch at Councillor Wilson who has promoted the street changes, praising her “steadfastness” on the issue and acknowledging that she had worked hard in her community on the issue.
Although the COVID issue may still be underway at the end of the six month pilot, Public Works Director Dan McKinnon says it is possible for staff to do some modeling to fill in the blanks, or Council could simply vote to extend the pilot. Correspondence on the council agenda showed more writers in support of the project but it is clear there is still significant opposition to having this traffic measure made permanent.