Crosswalk concerns brought to council

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By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A number of upgrades are in the works to increase pedestrian safety across Chatham-Kent.

In a staff report to council recently, improvements slated for some of the municipality’s roadways – including improvements at school crossings – were unveiled.

According to the report, planning and design will take place in 2024 with construction to follow in 2025. A total of $1.2 million has been slated for the upgrades, which still need final approval in the Chatham-Kent budget process.

However, some members of the public and council would like to see the work completed next year.

A deputation from parent Kaitlyn Oakley, whose children attend Gregory Drive Public School in Chatham, told council of some of the dangers facing youngsters walking to school.

Oakley said she hoped to have the crosswalk upgraded in 2024, noting the present situation poses a “considerable safety risk to our children.”

Oakley pointed out young children are sometimes risk takers when walking alone to school as that group accounts for a quarter of traffic fatalities in the country according to Transport Canada.

While walking her children to school, Oakley said she has observed near misses in the area of Gregory Drive and Helen Street, with drivers slamming on their brakes or honking to get youngsters to move out of the way.

“On any given day I can stand there and watch three to eight cars drive right by me while I’m standing at the old school crosswalk to get across the road,” Oakley said.

“When I do make the decision to cross the road, we look to make sure there’s no traffic, but still some cars will speed up coming toward you even though they see you walking. Some will even go around you when you’re in the middle of the road.

“So generally, it’s just really unsafe for children to be walking here without a proper crosswalk,” Oakley said, adding the parents at Gregory Drive would like to have the crosswalk installed “sooner rather than later.”

Chatham Coun. Alysson Storey said she’s heard from many residents concerned about pedestrian safety related to crosswalks, and is worried about the wait for construction.

“If there’s any chance to bump that up, I know the neighbours would appreciate it,” Storey said.

C-K infrastructure and engineering general manager Edward Soldo said staff have completed a comprehensive analysis of the municipality’s crosswalks, ranking them in terms of priority.

“Our goal is to try and meet that demand as closely as possible with the funding and the resources we have available,” Soldo said.

Under the Highway Traffic Act, school crossings that are no longer manned by school crossing guards, must be removed or converted to another type of crossing. The program was discontinued by council in 2016 due to the difficulty of finding people to work at them.

A total of 13 crosswalks are being converted to pedestrian crossovers, which means they will have improved signage and flashing lights to varying degrees.

They include Main Street North at Cherry Street (Bothwell); Alexandra Avenue at Dunn Avenue (Chatham); Delaware Avenue at Cox Avenue (Chatham); Eugenie Street south of Meadowlea Road (Chatham); Gregory Drive at Helen Street (Chatham); Willowmac Avenue at Dunn Avenue (Chatham); Ella Street north of Stewart Street (Tilbury); Lawrence Avenue west of Dora Drive (Wallaceburg); Thomas Avenue at Janssens Street at Wallaceburg.

New pedestrian crossovers will be installed at Talbot Street at McGeorge Street (Blenheim); McNaughton Street East, east of Given Road (Chatham); Main Street West at Maple Street South (Ridgetown); and Canal Street West at Dupuis Avenue (Tilbury.)

School crossings will be removed at King Street South at Regent Street (Blenheim); Churchill Street at Sunset Avenue (Chatham); Fort Street at Mable Street (Tilbury.)

A pedestrian crossover at Raleigh Street at Cross Street Chatham will also be removed.

More infrastructure updates are on the way. According to Soldo, administration is working on a C-K road safety action plan, a traffic calming policy and a new sidewalk missing link policy, with the reports expected later this fall.

 

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