Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Accesses to Hamilton's "Mountain"

The Ups and Downs of Having a Mountain
No One Injured in Mudslide as Crashing Escarpment Wall
Covered the Claremont Access Roadway!

In January 2012, I published “My Homeland...The Golden Horseshoe” describing the Niagara Escarpment, I commented that Hamilton (my neighbouring city) 
is physically two-tiered. The Lower city is on the water level of Burlington Bay (also Hamilton Harbour) and Lake Ontario. The Upper city is accessed by 6 routes to the top of the you can imagine...with fabulous panoramic views from the rocky edge of its precipice!

One of the accesses...the Sherman Cut... (a 60 metre high-cliff-hugging-access-route) was closed for three months last fall for emergency repairs due to drainage problems. 

The following article was submitted a few days ago by Spectator Editorial staff.

The Niagara Escarpment, formed in the bedrock of the Great Lakes basin, 
is a large part of what shapes Hamilton as a community. It is both a blessing 
and an ongoing challenge. Most of the time we take it for granted...unless the mud starts sliding, reminding us that managing the geography of our city 
is a long-term process, not a single act.

We do not live in a part of the world where mud slides frequently kill people 
and flatten communities. But the collapse of the Claremont Access retaining
wall last Wednesday (February 22), is a strong reminder that despite all our metal and concrete and asphalt, we are much less powerful than the geology 
that defines our city.

In Hamilton, downtown really is down. The escarpment delineates the upper
 and lower components of our city. Some of us live below the escarpment, 
some of us live on the Mountain ~ and woe betide the outsider who smirks 
at the use of the term “Mountain”.

The escarpment is a steep band of green through the city, home to trails
 and wildlife. More than 100 waterfalls flow over it, leading Hamilton to be characterized as the City of Waterfalls. For generations of children, the escarpment has provided a wilderness within steps of home, a place where imagination reigns.

The challenge has always been moving people and goods from lower to upper and vice-versa. Trails, plank roads, incline railways, winding two-lane drives 
and multi-lane mini-highways have contributed to our ability to be one city 
on two levels.

But that comes with cost. For example, it has long been difficult to find an accurate budget comparator for the Hamilton Street Railway because getting buses up and down the escarpment ~ without adding paying customers while doing so ~ adds costs that don't exist in municipalities of similar size. 
Millions have been spent on engineering and constructing the infrastructure 
that connects our two-level city.

When the mud and rock slide burst through the Claremont retaining wall last week, a quick-thinking motorist left his car and walked to the top to direct 
traffic away from the debris. There were no injuries. The retaining wall was
 built in 1971 with an expected lifespan of 40 to 50 years. The access was last inspected by engineers in November 2010, when only minor repairs were recommended. It's likely this winter's mild temperatures contributed to the 
wall's collapse.

From all evidence, the city is wisely being cautious and thorough in its assessment, cleanup and repair of the mudslide damage. Given our unusual winter, the other accesses, large and small, must be examined for potential weakness. We need to have confidence that we are safe as, bus,
bike or walk up and down our part of the escarpment.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Access Roads
(all with major road repairs as deemed necessary).
                                   Queen Street Hill (Beckett Drive)
                                   Built 1894 with daily traffic 12,000 vehicles.

                                    James Street Mountain Road (West 5th)
                                    Built 1844...daily traffic 10,000 or less.

                                   Claremont Access
                                   Built 1971...daily traffic 16,000 vehicles

                                   Jolly Cut (from the downtown core area of city)
                                   Built 1873...daily traffic 18,000 vehicles

                                   Sherman Access Cut
                                   Built 1932...daily traffic 15,000

                                   Kenilworth Access
                                   Built 1958, replacing the Ottawa Street Access
                                   and its dangerous S-curve...daily traffic 14,000

(The foregoing source from Spectator Files)

Fact of Interest: The World Road Championship (for cyclists) was held in Hamilton in the autumn of 2003. The event featured wonderful warm sunny October days, Ontario's dramatic coloured leaves and the superb challenge 
of the scenic roads. The Queen Street Hill was the up-climb. As cyclists 
crossed the escarpment top, their views over the City, the Bay a-float with numerous sailboats, the Skyway Bridge and the vastness of Lake Ontario 
... were locked into their memories forever.

Pearl of Wisdom”
To succeed, we must first Believe that we Can.
(Michael Korda)

Merle Baird-Kerr . . . written February 29, 2012
Comments Welcome...scroll down (may sign in as “anonymous”)
or e-mail ...


  1. It is truly a beautiful site our Mountain Access and Mountain Brow... Looking out Above The Din.

    My family went to view the World Cycling Races that year and Hamilton was made famous all over the world by the media coverage of our Gorgeous Fall Folliage which was set as Nature's Background for the world Class Event.

    Everytime I drive up or down one of her Accesses I marvel at the Engineering of her roads soaring high about The Hamilton Harbour and Lake Ontario.
    What a site... makes us realize there is no place like home for the beauty of its two tiered city. We love it here...

    1. What a wonderful description of what you viewed!
      The World was invited to visit Hamilton and her
      beautiful geographical setting. Thank You for
      your colourful comments.