BY ANDREW SMITH
LISTOWEL – North Perth council reviews millions of dollars worth of projects every year during budget, but it was a $36,000 item for crosswalk lighting that generated the most discussion at a recent meeting.
North Perth council returned to the 2015 budget discussion on Feb. 11, with manager of operations Jamie Morgan including a recommedation to review the municipality’s crosswalks. Morgan said the $36,000 would allow for amber caution lights, which wouldn’t solve the majority of incidents that occur during the day. Coun. Paul Horn said it’s perhaps time for council to look at signalized crosswalks, making reference to a recent pedestrian fatality in downtown Listowel.
“This is our citizens and our safety we’re talking about,” he said. “We just had a lady killed downtown, and it’s very unfortunate. We’ve had how many accidents with pedestrians, let’s look into some real pedestrian crosswalks.”
CAO Kriss Snell said that amber caution lights at crosswalks used to be the standard, but liability concerns have led municipalities to adopt traffic signals at crosswalks like Listowel’s trail crossing on Main Street West.
“There are municipalities who have lost cases on the amber crossing lights, because it’s not a stop sign, it’s a caution,” he said. “Jamie and I are looking for answers, but we’re not only bumping into the MTO issue but now the liability issue with the amber lights.”
Coun. Matt Richardson said the current crosswalk situation downtown is “an accident waiting to happen” and that amber crossing may not force drivers to stop but it would give some indication of someone wanting to cross.
“Someone could be flapping their arms around and you wouldn’t be able to see them,” he said. “If someone has activated that button to activate that flashing light, I know I have to slow down.”
Mayor Julie Behrns said it’s important to have the crosswalks lit at night to increase visibility.
“It’s incredibly hard, on rainy nights especially, to see some of these crosswalks,” she said. “I think both the pedestrians and motorists need to take some responsibility for what is happening at our crosswalks.”
Behrns went on to suggest prohibiting right turns at the intersection of Main Street and Wallace Avenue to prevent pedestrian collisions.
“People walking across from Crabby’s to CIBC, they’re taking their life in their hands if someone thinks they really need to get around that corner,” Behrns said.
“I’ve seen people almost get wiped out there because motorists forget pedestrians have the right of way.”
The proposed roundabout for Highway 23 and Line 86 was also budgeted for $988,336, as well as the $328,218 extension of Mitchell Road South, to be named Haverkamp Avenue North. Despite the budget figures, Snell said the cost of the project will be recovered through development charges and the sale of land.
“Once we determine all the costs that we have invested in it, we’ll sell the rest to developers,” Snell said. “We’re hoping it all breaks even, that’s the goal.”
The single-lan roundabout planned for Listowel will be 7 metres wide, about the size of a standard two-lane highway. Snell said there is no firm timeline for construction of the roundabout, but said the project ties into the new elementary school.
“I think our biggest goal is to have this complete before the school opens,” Snell said. “That’s really our firm target, and unless things change that won’t be until September 2016.”
Although the single lane roundabout will hopefully be less confusing than having two lanes, Snell said the rollout of the project will include a public education campaign on how to navigate the traffic circle. As well, Snell said the construction will have a minimal disruption of the intersection.
“We’re hoping that intersection only has to be down for a short period of time, we know it’s busy intersection,” Snell said. “If you’re trying to get west through Listowel, it’s the only option you have.”