Updated: July 3

Big changes are coming to the Frederick Street on and off ramps to the Conestoga expressway.

The changes are a result of the new highway 7. Understandably, the attention of local folks and the media has been on the suitability of the option for building a new highway 7 due to  environmental concerns.

Like it or not, the new highway 7 route appears to be a sure thing and there are major changes coming to how central Kitchener and its downtown core are connected to both highway 7 and the expressway.

Victoria Street will no longer be part of highway 7 when the new route is built. Instead the new highway will connect to Wellington Street where it currently ends near Riverbend Drive and Shirley Avenue. Drivers will have a whole new set of ramps and roads to connect with the Conestoga Expressway and Kitchener.

How Frederick Street access is affected

I understood that one result of the changes was that the Frederick Street on/off ramps would be closed. Having lived nearly all my life in nearby neighbourhoods, I was concerned about the implications of this change for residents, local businesses and even the downtown core.

Others understood only the ramps for one direction were being lost.

Fortunately, neither scenario is true.

The map from the Ministry of Transportation shows in detail what to expect.

Frederick Expressway image

Click on the image to open a large PDF of the map.

July 3 – Map showing a wider area including that highway 7 will not exit directly onto Wellington. Thanks to Justin O’Neill for sharing in the comments.

At first, it may appear that half the ramps are being lost since you won’t see the existing off ramp for traffic driving from the direction of Waterloo towards Ottawa Street, highway 8 and Stratford. There also appears to be no on ramp anymore to travel towards Waterloo. You may be concerned about being forced to travel to Wellington Street to get to the replacement ramps which is a street folks in this area would never use because it’s not convenient enough and don’t consider a part of the neighbourhood.

While two ramps are disappearing, there are some other changes planned that essentially compensates for these perceived losses that could affect expressway access.

New connection roads keep existing access

The plans also include two new “connection” roads from where Edna ends at Victoria over to Wellington and from where Bruce ends at Victoria over to Wellington.

Those connection roads are essentially extensions of Edna and Bruce. They mean that the “lost” ramps are replaced by ones at Wellington that are relatively easily accessible to drivers.

The Ministry of Transportation confirms that there will be two-way traffic on both of  these “connection” roads.

That fact means the ramps on Wellington Street are conveniently only a short drive away and essentially respects existing patterns for getting on and off the Conestoga Expressway.

New traffic patterns to emerge

Note added July 3: This section reflects my understanding before I saw how the new highway 7 primarily directs traffic to the expressway.

At the same time, new traffic patterns are certain to emerge in Kitchener as a result of the new highway 7.

Is the Region of Waterloo and City of Kitchener ready?

While the new highway 7 eases access onto and off of the expressway, a good number of vehicles shall continue along Wellington Street. From the expressway to Lancaster, drivers have a major four lane road similar to Victoria Street. Then Wellington turns into a quieter, tree-lined two lane road. Given that Lancaster is a major road at that point, they may prefer to use Lancaster rather than proceed on Wellington.

That’s likely a good thing since Wellington on the core side of Lancaster is not created to handle as much volume of traffic as the expressway side. Making it better equipped would impact a beautiful tree-lined residential neighbourhood. It’d also direct people away from Kitchener’s rejuvenated downtown core.

When coming to Lancaster, drivers are likely more interested in turning left to connect with Victoria, Frederick and Weber Streets.

There are already concerns about traffic along that stretch of Lancaster. The five-point intersection at Frederick can be challenging for pedestrians to navigate and feel safe. Pedestrians are also concerned for their safety walking along Lancaster’s sidewalks  between Weber and Queen since they are right next to a road where  enough cars are travelling at an uncomfortable speed.

That stretch includes a crossing at Chapel for hundreds of elementary school kids going to and from Suddaby School. Parents and the recently retired crossing guard are already concerned about safety due to traffic. A greater volume of traffic can only make a bad situation worse.

The City of Kitchener recently completed and passed its Transportation Master Plan (though it doesn’t appear to be on the relevant web page yet). When contacted, staff said that traffic changes due to highway 7 had been taken into account.

At the same time, they said that no changes were planned to either Wellington Street on the core side of Lancaster. Nor any changes to the city’s portion of Lancaster between Victoria and Weber.

Does that mean that those roads are not expected to see increased traffic as a result of the new highway 7? Or does it mean that any increase is not expected to require any changes to the city’s portion of Lancaster or to Wellington? Is either realistic or acceptable to residents?

{Note: the next paragraph updated July 3 to be more accurate.}

The Region of Waterloo is responsible for major roads like Victoria Street and Lancaster from Victoria to Bridge. It will soon start updating on its own Transportation Master Plan that will, in part, examine the implications of the new highway 7.

We should pay careful attention to how the Region’s plan distributes and collects traffic for the new highway 7 and its implications for nearby neighbourhoods.

At the same time, the reality that highway 7 is actually going to happen is very recent and the implications for traffic in Kitchener have largely been unknown. Residents who, despite opportunities, were not involved in the process may now be interested in taking a closer look. I hope the city will be open to their interest despite the recency of the process.

12 thoughts on “Big changes coming to Frederick Street expressway access

  1. Thanks for clearing that up James! While it’s still difficult to predict the implications the changes will have on our community, this situation is better than we had previously believed.
    As a parent whose children cross Lancaster (at Chapel) I would like to see if we can get a forum going for our unanswered questions.

  2. You’re welcome Laura! And considering there are already concerns about crossing or walking along that stretch of Lancaster, I’d think that even a modest increase only heightens safety concerns.

  3. Thanks James. Where did you find that map? With the keyplan in the corner, it looks like it’s part of a series.

    Also, do you know what’s to become of that pedestrian crossing over the tracks? Will it lose its connection to Riverbend?

    1. Hey Mike! The map was sent to me by the Ministry staff member responsible for the project. I’m sure it is one of a series. I was only interested in this area.

      I’m not sure about the future of that bridge. I assume it’d stay unless it’s in the way of any of the changes.

      Then again maybe River Road should be or will be extended over the tracks? I expect that’s something that the Region would consider in its Transportation Master Plan.

      I’ll see if I can get the map so we can see.

  4. Sorry if I missed it in the article, but what happens to Wellington east of the interchange? Will there be a connection between Wellington and the new Highway 7?

    1. Doug, I think if you click on the map to open the larger version that will open as a PDF you’ll see how the two are connected. In short, if I understand your question, the answer is yes.

    1. Thanks Justin! That’s important information. Having a broader picture of what is to come is helpful and clarifies what is likely to happen to traffic. It helps me to understand why the city doesn’t think highway 7 requires changes to Wellington or Lancaster.

      But it makes me wonder whether there will be fewer drivers using highway 7 coming in to Kitchener that may just pass through rather than spending time and money here. Will it direct traffic away from the core that’d currently go there or that we’d like to encourage to go there?

      I’ll add your link above to provide greater context.

  5. I’m really curious to see the entire plan and how this will all play out. I live in the area and work in the area and I see a large impact (at least initially) on how we all get around in this area.

    1. That’s exactly what prompted me to look into what was happening Chris! I also knew that there were lots of folks like us who had no idea how their lives could be impacted. So far, I’m learning things seem to be better than I anticipated though with a change of this magnitude there will be plenty of details that could make a significant difference to how well things work out.

      If you want to get a better sense of the big picture, the link to the Google Map appears to be pretty good. It was created by a guy very knowledgeable on transportation issues.

  6. It should be noted that the above Google Maps link is by no way the official plan, but something I did to illustrate how the interchange and the (now immovable) Highway ROW could be value engineered.

    1. Thanks Duncan. I realize that your map is not official. I did see on Wonderful Waterloo that you’ve made some recommendations on how this interchange could be what you described as value engineered. My quick glance indicated it might be worth a closer look if it is still possible to do so. Feel free to share a link here.

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