Jeff Heuchert email@example.com
The city has given the green light to set up two crossing guards at Ontario and Nile streets on a trial basis to see if the added safety measure puts parents more at ease about letting their kids walk to school.
Shirley Cook attended city council Monday, April 28 to ask for improvements to the busy east-end intersection. She said the problem has gotten worse since September when the public school board's new boundary adjustments came into play. The affected students, whom she said are ages 12 or younger, have to cross the four-lane road to attend Romeo school or to board a bus for Anne Hathaway.
After an initial request from parents for a crossing guard at either the Ontario and Nile or Ontario and Front intersections was received in November, the city completed a traffic study of both locations. The study found just one child crossed at each location, and came to the conclusion that crossing guards were not needed. Staff also encouraged the child who crossed at Nile to walk the 240 meters to the Front Street crossing, which is controlled with traffic lights.
That wasn't good enough for Cook, however, who told councillors Monday the Ontario and Front crossing is still too dangerous.
"Even with the traffic lights, the bulk of transport trucks that go past and the speed at which they go makes it very dangerous and stressful for parents," she added.
Cook said the city's data is flawed, and argued that more kids would walk if the crossings were safer. She also questioned why the city doesn't take into consideration the volume of traffic on the road when determining whether a crossing guard is warranted.
Cook received support from several councillors, including Martin Ritsma, who suggested a trial run either in June or September to better gauge how well used the Nile crossing might be with supervision.
"I think our data would be more sound if we can provide an opportunity for them to cross," he added.
Coun. Kerry McManus said she was nervous about having kids cross at a busy intersection that doesn't have lights, and cited the similar troubles that students and crossing guards have encountered on Huron Street.
"I've watched many mornings on Huron Street where, even though those crossing guards have been there for years, people still have difficulty registering it at times."
Cook replied that the Front Street crossing wasn't ideal because there is not a full sidewalk further south of the intersection, which means kids have to cross over the street to get to the school, whereas Nile Street has full sidewalks.
In addition to giving staff time to set up the crossing guards and notify schools and parents, council, which was sitting as the protection to persons and property committee at the time, also agreed to refer the matter so that staff can consult with the school board about the number of students having to cross Ontario to get to school.
At the very least, Cook said the city should consider lowering the speed limit on that section of road during school crossing hours or putting up school crossing signs. As was noted by Coun. Bonnie Henderson, because Ontario Street makes up a portion of a provincial highway changes need to be approved through the Ministry of Transportation.
Cook said the young students are currently "denied the luxury of walking to school," but noted a crossing guard at the intersection would foster independence in the kids and encourage a healthy community that supports exercise and wellness.
The additional crossing guards would impact the budget by an estimated $15,000-$20,000 per year.