Seniors will get their crosswalk 0
Rita McGoldrick, right, acted as a spokesperson for this group of seniors who live at St. Joseph’s Non-Profit Housing complex, at Tuesday’s planning and waterfront committee meeting. The group was successful in persuading Pembroke council to install a crosswalk from their complex to the West End Mall.
After years of lobbying, the senior citizens of the St. Joseph Non-Profit Housing complex are finally getting their crosswalk.
On Tuesday, in front of more than a dozen seniors gathered in the council chambers, Pembroke’s planning and waterfront committee voted to approve the construction of a crosswalk close to the West End Mall, in order to aid pedestrians crossing Pembroke Street West.
Coun. Les Scott, in making the motion to approve it, said after years of discussions and public appeals, they should finally proceed with this matter.
“This has been before council for as long as I’ve been on it, and it is time we finally address this,” he said. The councillor asked that the crosswalk would have pedestrian activated signals, so approaching traffic will be forced to stop in order to allow people to cross safely.
He also included in his motion the recommendation the owners of the West End Mall be approached to see if they can be talked into blocking off the most easterly entrance to the mall parking lot, in order to prevent cars from turning right so close to the crossing.
While the committee voted in favour of the crosswalk, except for Coun. Dan Callaghan and Pat Lafreniere who weren’t present, Mayor Ed Jacyno voted against it, saying he wasn’t convinced it was the right thing to do.
He said he couldn’t approve the addition of another set of traffic lights so close to an established intersection - the Crandall and Pembroke Street lights are only 235 metres away from the site of the proposed crosswalk. He said it is a matter of public safety.
“Just the way it is laid out concerns me,” Mayor Jacyno said. “I’m really worried about all of those entrances which lead in and out onto the street.” He said he is certain drivers will not know how to handle an extra lighted signal between two intersections. With pedestrians thinking they can cross safely, plus high traffic volumes, he is concerned this could be a recipe for disaster.
“I’m afraid we’re going to have an accident,” the mayor said. “If we put that signal in, and if someone is killed, I couldn’t live with that.”
The crosswalk issue has been brought back to city council a number of times over the years, as seniors and those with mobility issues kept asking for some sort of pedestrian crossing close to St. Joseph’s Non-Profit Housing, most recently in 2000 and 2007, where public delegations have appeared before the councils of the day to press their case, but were always unsuccessful.
What would often cause council to reject the requests is the close proximity of the Crandall and Pembroke Street West intersection. While city staff would point to that as the best place to cross, those living at the St. Joseph’s complex would insist the distance was too great to travel when encumbered with walkers and canes.
This February, the request came forward again, and this time council agreed staff would examine the matter further. Later during budget deliberations, some $85,000 was set aside in the 2012 budget to cover the costs of constructing a crossing.
Doug Sitland, operations manager, said from a technical point of view, he and his staff couldn’t recommend a crosswalk being installed at this location. Not only is the site in an awkward location, which would both disrupt traffic flow and create a hazard as drivers would be unused to the interruption, increasing the likelihood of accidents, but the numbers of people actually crossing there wasn’t enough to warrant a crossing.
He explained traffic engineering guidelines suggest a minimum of 200 people should be crossing over an eight hour span. A traffic survey showed him that during the last week of August, the traffic volume at that location was 7,300 vehicles in eight hours, with 36 people crossing during the same time period. A total of 18 of these pedestrians were seniors.
Mr. Sitland said after consulting with city police, he found the officers weren’t in favour of a crossing there either, but if one was to be installed, it was their recommendation it be a pedestrian activated signal which would stop traffic completely. As well, the police suggested at least one of the West End Mall’s entrances be closed.
The operations manager said if council wished to proceed, a second possible location would be at Heritage Manor, where there is an intersection that drivers could expect people to cross at, and more people could be served by it. However, he doubted those at St. Joseph would use it.
Mr. Sitland said he did get estimates on constructing two different types of crosswalk - $65,000 for a pedestrian crossover which would be marked with a flashing amber light to alert drivers, and a pedestrian activated one which would be more than double that in price, estimated to be around $175,000.
Coun. Scott said he felt nothing less than a proper signaled crosswalk would do, as he feels anything less will pose a danger to seniors attempting to cross. He said he was worried traffic would not stop at a flashing warning light, putting seniors crossing there at risk.
Having a signal light activated with a button at the time a pedestrian wants to cross has the bonus of being minimally disruptive to traffic, which would only be forced to stop when the light was red.
Coun. Scott said with $85,000 budgeted now, the extra cost for the signals could be covered by any surpluses in the operations budget, or put over to the 2013 budget.
Stephen Uhler is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist