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City pursuing safer crossings

Jeff Heuchert, Stratford Gazette

Amid growing concern over student and pedestrian safety, Stratford city council has agreed to pursue the possibility of installing a signalized crossing on Huron Street.

The city’s engineering staff will be in contact with the Ministry of Transportation, which would have to sign off on the project since Huron Street is what is known as a connecting link – a road that is part of a provincial highway.

Staff will also research the cost and availability of solar-powered speed signs.

According to information circulated at last week’s council meeting, there have been nine reported near-miss accidents at the Huron and Huntingdon streets crossing since the beginning of the school year. That is an increase over last year.

Concern over drivers speeding and not stopping to let crossing guards help kids across the road safely, particularly on Huron Street, was voiced at a recent council meeting by coun. George Brown, who asked staff to look into possible solutions.

At last week’s meeting, coun. Paul Nickel suggested the city could install some type of mobile cameras in the Huron Street area to help deter drivers from dangerous behaviour, noting, “we’ve had problems with speeding even with the crossing guards there.”

Questioned on the matter, police Chief John Bates said he did not believe current legislation permits a municipality to establish photo radar surveillance. He added the city could install red light cameras but warned they would be a “rather significant investment.”

Coun. Brown has also been pushing for some form of pedestrian-friendly crossing or walkway on Mornington Street – which unlike Huron is not a connecting link and would simply require council approval – to no avail.

Councillors did approve last week the installation of a sidewalk on Mornington from Delamere Avenue to McCarthy Road, which it is hoped will make it safer for people walking in the area.

However, Bedford parent Jo-Dee Burbach Tuling, who last year spearheaded a petition to have a crosswalk installed on the busy north-end road, told councillors the sidewalk was not an ideal solution.

She suggested many parents would continue to drive their children to school because it is safer than having their kids walk and have to cross several other busy side streets.

“It is a shame, somebody driving three blocks because they can’t get across a certain intersection. I think that’s shameful,” she said.

Burbach Tuling added the city should want to encourage kids and pedestrians to walk, noting the cost to install a crossing on Mornington would be minimal in the overall public works budget.

“I think the city needs to realize that safety is paramount,” she said.

She suggested as other safety measures for the crossing on Mornington painting wide white lines on the road and installing signs reminding drivers to stop for children ahead.

She said crossing guards are afraid to enter the road so what often ends up happening on Mornington is parents and children stand and wait until there are no vehicles approaching.

“There’s no expectation that those cars will stop,” she added, “which I think is kind of backwards.”

Coun. Bonnie Henderson noted despite council lowering the speed limit on Mornington, many drivers are still not getting the message. She suggested the city install solar-powered speed signs in the school zones on both Mornington and Huron streets.

The engineering department will report back on the crossing issue to the public works sub-committee at a later date.

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