by Mayor Nancy Peckford with contributions from Councillor John Barclay
This past week, your new municipal Council was once again confronted with the realities of a high growth community where traffic is intensifying and road safety concerns are pervasive.
After many months of effort on the part of Councillor John Barclay and our municipal public works department, light poles and LED lights have finally been installed on the bridge at County Road 43. We expect the switch to be flipped on these lights in the coming days.
This measure follows the tragic and high profile fatality that occurred in June of 2017 when municipal employee, Gary Boal (63), was killed while attempting to cross the bridge at 10 pm one Saturday evening.
Despite the fact that a new bridge is on the horizon for some time in the future (approx. 3 years), Council agreed during the budget process that creating more illumination in this area could not wait. At the same time as the lights were going up on the CR 43 bridge, however, we learned of another vehicular accident near the intersection of Counties Road 43 and 22 at South Gower drive.
Many residents in this area have expressed their ongoing frustrations with a challenging intersection where residents on South Gower drive are having to pull out onto an increasingly busy highway (County Road 43).
We have asked the Counties to host a meeting for residents and business leaders in July, where folks will have the opportunity to provide input at an earlier stage (than initially planned) into the design of traffic controls at this intersection.
Given that South Gower Drive also features busy soccer and diamond fields, several residential neighbourhoods on either side of 43 and a playground, slowing drivers down on this road too will mean a great deal. Many area residents have said it is often impossible to safely access by foot or on bike these recreational amenities in light of frequently treacherous conditions.
Of course, Council is aware that in many areas of our community, including in several hamlets such as Bishop’s Mills and Burritts Rapids, residents are concerned about vehicular speed and walkability on main routes and in neighbourhoods.
For the first time in 2019, your new Council supported a modest budget envelope for traffic calming measures, and will soon be reviewing the results of a comprehensive sidewalk analysis.
This is because our community is clearly grappling with increasing concerns about pedestrian safety. As some may be aware, Council recently had a lively debate about the kind of crosswalk required for a Community Safety zone on Concession Road. Typically, community safety zones are designated where there is a convergence of schools and other institutions, such as hospitals, serving a high number of children and seniors.
Despite ample signage and significantly higher fines for drivers who exceed 40 km/hour on Concession road in the community safety zone, radar reports over the last two years that were overseen by the NG Police Services Board showed consistent and significant speed violations.
Consequently, in 2018, an engineering study was commissioned to examine speed mitigation options. Upon review of this report, Council opted to set the bar higher, with the installation of a pedestrian- activated illuminated crosswalk. This is so that we can be more confident that children of all ages, seniors and others can safely cross the street in this community safety zone throughout the year and at varying times of the day (including during the dark winter months).
Given the somewhat unique designation of a community safety zone on Concession Road (just one of a very few in North Grenville), the majority of Council believed that investments in pedestrian safety are imperative.
A similar study regarding road and pedestrian safety measures on Clothier street will also be brought to Council in the coming month. Additionally, the local public health unit recently received a grant to work with the municipality and local school boards to re-assess key pedestrian routes for safety and trip hazards, in an effort to get more kids off buses and walking to school.
There is a no doubt that there is a lot to get our heads around when it comes to the health and safety of all of North Grenville’s residents. Solutions aren’t always perfect and the technology is evolving. As a new Council, we welcome the diverse input of residents of all ages and abilities, recognizing that resources are finite, and strategic decisions will need to be made.
For anyone wishing to bring speed concerns to the municipality’s attention, a form has been developed to register a complaint. The municipality works closely with the North Grenville Police Services Board to assess the situation, monitor speeds, review accident history, and examine options for improvements. We look forward to hearing from you.