Safe routes, crossing guard among budget requests

Duane Hicks

Fort Frances council has been asked to make traffic safety and active transportation, including the hiring a crossing guard for the intersection of Keating Avenue and King’s Highway, a high priority in its 2010 budget.
Both Elaine Fischer of the Active Transportation Committee (ATC) and Fort Frances OPP Cst. Anne McCoy, representing Safe Communities Rainy River District, delivered the message during the public budget meeting portion of Monday night’s council meeting.
Fischer said the ATC has been working to implement its active transportation plan—a long-term plan to improve active transportation opportunities in Fort Frances which would yield health, economic, social, and environmental benefits for the town and its citizens.
Over the last eight-10 months, the ATC has expanded its membership and has been working on several activities to increase education and awareness of the plan.
These have included a series of maps to highlight walking routes through town and the Photovoice project—a Safe Kids Canada initiative which saw J.W. Walker students go around town with digital cameras this past spring to record what they saw as pedestrian safety issues.
“We realized that we do have to focus on several initiatives before we move ahead with the Active Transportation Plan,” conceded Fischer, noting the ATC has five requests for the town in the 2010 budget.
These requests include:
•support and expertise from town staff and committees (examples of help include the “costing out” of certain projects, adjusting the timing of traffic lights for better pedestrian safety, funding for painting crosswalks, etc.);
•identifying Fourth Street West as a dedicated route for cyclists, and moving them off the highway;
•enhancement of existing transportation routes, such as shaving curbs to increase accessibility and safety;
•consultation with town staff regarding the upgrade of the well-utilized “monkey trail” between the 200 block of Third Street East and Fourth Street West, just west of the LCBO (this would include either a constructed path or fencing to define the existing path); and
•council support when applying for funding opportunities to implement aspects of the plan.
Fischer said the ATC realizes the budget will be tight, but added not all the requests require funding—and those that do will involve collaboration with other groups.
In closing, Fischer noted it’s good to see the waterfront so well-utilized by walkers, cyclists, joggers, and so forth, but added it would be even better to be able to link the entire town together with active transportation routes so citizens could travel from east to west.
Meanwhile, Cst. McCoy, who also sits on the ATC, said there’s a clear need to implement the King’s Highway and McIrvine Road Corridor active transportation strategy.
Recalling the Safe Kids Canada’s Photovoice project conducted here this spring, Cst. McCoy said J.W. Walker students identified traffic safety issues, particularly at the intersection of Keating Avenue and King’s Highway.
As a result, the ATC and Safe Communities came together to prioritize these issues, and devised the King’s Highway and McIrvine Road Corridor active transportation strategy.
This strategy would be split into three stages, addressing enforcement, environmental, and educations components, respectively.
Stage one of the plan would be to implement a community safety zone on King’s Highway, McIrvine Road, and Highway 602 (Colonization Road West). This zone would extend from the Legion Park to the McIrvine Road intersection, and then north on McIrvine to the north side of the Fifth Street West intersection.
The zone would encompass St. Francis, J.W. Walker, Fort Frances High School, and Confederation College. It also would include a park and very busy pedestrian area through the highway and First Street West intersection.
A community safety zone is important because it covers the enforcement portion of the strategy, explained Cst. McCoy. Officers then have a tool and an option to increase fines within the community safety zone.
Motorists will have to reduce their speeds, and thus reduce potential pedestrian/vehicle-related injuries.
Stage two of the plan would be the implementation of school zone signs with speed reduction and amber lights.
Options would include the installation of a mobile speed measuring sign, crosswalk lines being painted at intersections, repairs to curbs, and installing signs to control direction of traffic movement and to clearly mark school zones.
They also would want to work with Public Works and the planning division to discuss options for “traffic calming methods” using signage and speed reduction methods.
This stage involves the environmental portion of the strategy. Safe Kids Canada has committed to further grant money in the amount of $4,000 to implement these environmental changes.
Stage three would include the town employing or contracting a crossing guard at the intersection of King’s Highway and Keating Avenue to provide supervision for children crossing during school hours (between 8-9 a.m. and 3-4 p.m. each weekday).
Cst. McCoy said the crossing guard is necessary for three reasons:
•the intersection is a four-lane highway that provides access to all modes of traffic, including a high volume of commercial motor vehicles;
•the traffic density if very high during the hours children walk to and from school; and
•there’s a large number of moving violations that occur at this intersection, including “motorist rushing” and failing to stop at the red light, and supervision is paramount to ensuring the safety of children.
The crossing guard, in conjunction with school lessons by local police officers concentrating on pedestrian safety, combine to be the educational component of the strategy.
Cst. McCoy said the cost for a crossing guard would be shared between the town and a private company that has expressed interest.
“But I need your support,” she stressed. “I need to be able to go to them and say, ‘My town council is supporting pedestrian safety and helping us with this project.’”
Cst. McCoy will appear before council at its Sept. 28 meeting to speak further on the traffic safety initiative the OPP is doing right now on the King’s Highway corridor.
Just to give the public a better idea of how bad the Keating Avenue intersection is, Cst. McCoy noted that in just one day of the initiative, an officer staked out the intersection for an hour and 45 minutes and laid six charges of failing to stop at a red light there.
Then she went out and laid two more the same day.
Other requests
Patti Anderson, co-ordinator for the Downtown Business Improvement Association, said that group had three requests, including:
•the replacement of 36 30-year-old coach-style lamps on the 100, 200, and 300 blocks of Scott Street with new brighter, hydro-efficient units that match those along the riverfront;
•the installation of six flag poles on Mowat Avenue (the poles will be supplied by the BIA while the town will provide the labour and materials needed); and
•financial or in-kind participation or partnerships in the Main Street Revitalization Plan (this request previously was submitted for the 2009 budget, but referred for consideration in 2010 by the Administration and Finance executive committee).
Meanwhile, local resident Bud Danylchuk said the town should provide snow removal assistance for seniors, like Atikokan does.
Danylchuk said seniors living in their own homes cannot always shovel snow to get out of their homes, especially when a snow plow goes by and the snow in their driveway is compacted.
This not only impedes their ability to get out and remain active in the community during the wintertime, but also is a barrier to visitors (especially important in the case of health providers or emergency medical personnel).
He added that after a snowstorm, some seniors may try and shovel snow themselves, possibly resulting in heath problems.
Danylchuk said some seniors are independent, active volunteers and don’t like asking for help, but he felt someone has to speak up and ask the town.
The snow removal assistance would be provided to those living in individual residences (as opposed to condos or apartments), with the town being given a list of names, addresses, and phone numbers of residents who might need the help.
Public Works then would decide when the snow removal assistance would be provided.
For another budget item, “Meals on Wheels” submitted a request for a $14,000 grant for continued operation of the local program (it annually gets a grant from the town).
And Mayor Roy Avis, who admitted it will be another tough budget year ahead, submitted three requests of his own, including:
•the hard surfacing of Fifth Street from Portage Avenue to McIrvine Road;
•the hard surfacing of Boundary Road (which the town currently is negotiating with the Township of Alberton); and
•a dedicated maintenance crew for the waterfront and Sorting Gap Marina to keep it in top-notch shape.
What’s next?
According to the budget timetable council passed at its Aug. 26 meeting, the four executive committees will take the information received from Monday night’s meeting and review it during the week of Oct. 5-9.
These same committees then will review the various division budgets during the week of Nov. 16-20. Information then will be handed over to treasurer Laurie Witherspoon by Nov. 27, who, in turn, will consolidate the data into a draft operational and capital forecast.
This draft, and other budget information, then will be reviewed repeatedly by town administration and the committee of the whole throughout December, January, February, and early March before being brought up for ratification by council on March 22.
Over these months, the committee of the whole will meet every alternate week to regular council meetings to review the budget.
A second public meeting then will be held Monday, April 12, with the budget anticipated to be ready for a final vote April 26.