Collingwood councillors are pushing for the new traffic lights at Hamilton Drain Crosswalk sooner rather than later.
The development and operations committee met on Sept. 13 to discuss options for the crosswalk installed at Hurontario Street. Observations of the crosswalk by a consultant indicate there’s only about 50 per cent compliance by vehicles, causing council and staff to doubt the safety of the crossing.
“Unfortunately, the compliance is quite low, especially in the northbound direction,” said the town’s manager of engineering, John Velick, during the meeting. “We believe the issue is both unfamiliarity with the new type of crossing along with the change from a rural to urban roadside environment when entering town that may catch people off guard.”
First installed in 2019, the crosswalk at the Hamilton Drain Trail is located north of the Poplar Sideroad/Hurontario Street intersection close to Collingwood Collegiate Institute, St. Mary's Catholic School, and Elementary School Catholic Notre-Dame-De-La-Huronie.
There’s a button on each side of the crossing that a pedestrian can press to activate lights over the road.
The rules require drivers and cyclists to stop on the marked yield bar when the lights are flashing to allow pedestrians to cross the entire width of the road.
The design of the crosswalk was taken from the Ontario Traffic Manual as the prescribed treatment for the particular road and area.
Vellick said MTO has received complaints about the design from other communities and has granted permission to municipalities to install “enhancements.”
Collingwood staff recommended replacing the flashing lights with two traffic lights (red-yellow-green), which would turn red when a pedestrian pushes the button on either side of the street.
The development and operations committee supported the change with a vote in favour of the recommendation, however, councillors also urged staff to move forward quickly.
Velick told the committee staff was proposing construction of the enhanced crossing in early spring because the pavement markings can’t be changed in winter.
He said once the new equipment arrives and is installed, it may be too late to re-paint the road with the new stop bar.
Mayor Brian Saunderson asked why the pavement markings couldn’t be saved for the spring but the lights installed in the fall.
Peggy Slama, director of engineering, public works, and environmental services, said there was a lot of discussion around the timing of the crosswalk changes, and the risk of installing the lights when they arrive this fall but not having enough time to paint the pavement.
“If we went forward [without the pavement markings], we wouldn’t be conforming with the standards and there is a risk with not having the [proper markings in place],” explained Slama. “That’s the liability if we decide to go that route.”
Councillor Yvonne Hamlin asked if the town could use crossing guards at the crosswalk in the meantime.
“The town has such a problem retaining crossing guards,” said Slama, noting the town did use OPP, bylaw officers, and town staff to work as crossing guards at the crosswalk when the equipment was vandalized. “It’s not something that’s easily sustainable … I think we would go that route if we had someone to do it, but the resources are difficult to obtain.”
Deputy Mayor Keith Hull said the town should ask the MTO to kick in the $75,000 cost to change the crosswalk lights to traffic lights since it was an MTO design in the first place that didn’t work in the location.
The original cost of the existing crosswalk was also $75,000, which means the changes will double the price.
Hull also noted ignorance is no excuse for not complying with the crosswalk, and drivers have a responsibility to be aware of what is in front and around them while they drive.
Slama confirmed the town has asked OPP to increase enforcement in the area to drive up compliance from vehicles.
The committee passed a motion to proceed with the crosswalk changes “as soon as possible.” The matter will be before council on Sept. 27 for another vote.