Town will address traffic concerns if Walker is expanded

Traffic concerns around J.W. Walker will be addressed if the Rainy River District School Board moves ahead with its school closure plans, both the mayor and board chairman said.
Lack of sidewalks and already high traffic volume around Walker, given its proximity to Fort Frances High School, were some of the chief concerns parents of Alexander MacKenzie and Sixth Street students made during school closure meetings at those schools last month.
Board chair Gord McBride and Fort Frances Mayor Glenn Witherspoon already have met briefly to discuss the issue—and the fact that changes may have to be made.
“Definitely with additional traffic something will be done,” the mayor said Monday.
He noted if the school board went ahead with its plan to close Sixth Street, Alexander MacKenzie, and Alberton Central in favour of an expanded Walker, then town council and board officials would meet to propose changes to accommodate increased buses, etc.
“We’d sit down and see what additional changes need to be made, whether it be off-street loading for school buses on the street going into the high school or proceeding with sidewalks,” the mayor said.
Meanwhile, McBride said he felt positive after discussing the issue with Mayor Witherspoon.
“I feel confident that the town will be able to work out the issue. I think that they’re going to have to sit down and look at all the possibilities and study it,” he remarked.
During the recent school closure meeting at Alexander MacKenzie, parent Wendy Kellar told the board that cars speeding out of Fort High and lack of sidewalks were a huge concern in expanding Walker.
Kellar was pleased to hear the school board and town were discussing the issue. “I hope they do put sidewalks in. If they’re talking about it, that’s great,” she said yesterday.
So far, neither side has proposed any concrete solutions to the high traffic volume on Keating Avenue, saying they must wait until the board makes a final decision on school closures before moving ahead.
But McBride said waiting a few months shouldn’t affect the town’s ability to examine the issue.
“If we make the school closure issue a fact, then they’re going to have a year to consider what they’re going to do about traffic problems,” he noted.