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Candidates in Grey Highlands talk road safety

Road safety has become a hot topic in Grey Highlands. Candidates for council have shared their views on the subject
2021_07_27 Grey Highlands Kimberley Highway 13_JG

CollingwoodToday asked the candidates running for council in Grey Highlands four questions about the issues facing the community.

The following responses were submitted by the candidates. The answers have not been checked for accuracy; they represent the candidates’ platforms and opinions.

Please visit CollingwoodToday’s municipal election web page for more coverage of the local municipal elections.

Responses are presented in alphabetical order beginning with candidates for mayor.

Q: Road Safety has been a topic of conversation in the community for some time. Please share with us what your priorities will be for addressing road safety concerns in the municipality.

Candidate for mayor: Don Alp

I will end senseless time and money-wasting studies on road safety and get the much-needed stop signs, street lights, and crossing guards plus widen road shoulders during scheduled road maintenance for the benefit of Mennonites, farm equipment and pedestrians.

Candidate for mayor: Paul McQueen

Road safety is very important. Creating a community road safety committee is a good start by engaging volunteers with a mandate to look at our community with representatives across Grey Highlands. Speed reduction in built-up areas along with street calming and slowing the travelling public down. 30 km/hr vs 50 km/hr is the difference between life or death if involved in a serious car accident with pedestrians. The County of Grey changed policy that all newly paved roads will have a paved shoulder delineated by a white line indicating a safer place for cyclists and pedestrians. An investment in sidewalks and places for pedestrians to walk may work for our urban centres, but more stop signs or flashing lights may be some solutions for our rural roads. 

Candidate for mayor: Danielle Valiquette

Road safety is a huge concern within all of Grey Highlands. Grey Highlands’ staff is currently working on a Road Safety Plan that includes options for traffic calming measures many from this plan. Additionally, staff are preparing a Transportation Master Plan; this reports on - among other things - Grey Highlands' sidewalk inventory and needs. I believe communities are well-served by active transportation infrastructure, and I will prioritize financial investments to increase our sidewalk inventory and slow people down. At the Sept. 21 council meeting, I made a motion that Grey Highlands staff prepare a report as part of the 2023 budget process to evaluate the possibility of increased enforcement options that might include a dedicated Grey Highlands Community Safety Officer. It passed unanimously, and will be deliberated by the next council.

Candidate for deputy mayor: Dane Nielsen

As a councillor I have been pushing for road safety measures. As a member of the Police Service Board I have worked with the OPP highlighting problem areas that residents have brought forward. I have also been working on long term civil engineering solutions that can help.  Council has requested a municipal-wide pedestrian safety study for the 2023 budget. We need to move this forward so that we can plan out what Grey Highlands should be focused on.  Historically the road was meant for the car, but we have increased population density in areas of Grey Highlands that have meant more risk for pedestrians.

Candidate for council: Paul Allen

I have consistently voted to reduce speeds and install stop signs in areas of concern. Council did pass a motion to do a pedestrian safety study after motions to reduce speed limits and install four-way stops in Eugenia were defeated. Council also supported a motion to lobby the Solicitor General to increase speeding fines. My priorities areL

1) Immediately respond to safety concerns of our residents.

2) Reduce speeds to 40 km/hr in all built-up areas of our municipality.

3) Increase sidewalk installations and repair.

4)  Look at alternate routes for pedestrians and cyclists such as bike/walking trails and lanes to improve safety.

Candidate for council: Tom Allwood

Road safety is a concern for all of us in Grey Highlands. As your councillor, I have supported staff working on a safety plan that would include traffic calming. All road signs in Grey Highlands are being regularly inspected for visibility, sightline, and reflectometry. Enforcement and Education are a big part of keeping pedestrians and motorists safe. We need to work with the OPP and the Police Services Board to promote enforcement and education.

Candidate for council: Reid Dennison

Road safety is a big concern of mine; since we moved to Flesherton nearly eight years ago, the front of a heritage building on Durham St. – a porch with concrete pillars – was demolished by an out-of-control car.  This is not the only time a vehicle has taken out a piece of a house in Flesherton. The recent tragic accident in Eugenia has all of us thinking more about road safety. Better sidewalks are a need in my village, in particular.

One of my neighbours worked at getting council to consider sidewalk repairs for the children walking to our two schools; council's response instead was to close several sidewalks, and stop maintaining them or plowing them in winter. Traffic calming doesn’t have to be expensive, and it can be quite effective. I’m not talking about flashing lights or reduced speed limits; those are widely ignored by drivers. Roads that Grey Highlands controls can, as one example, be narrowed with precast curb stones and bollards. These have a psychological effect and slow drivers down, without noticeably inconveniencing them or causing more exhaust emissions, the way that stop signs do. And they can be easily removed, where necessary, in snow-plowing season. The slogan for my campaign is: "more democracy for better decisions." The number one issue I’m hearing about on the doorsteps of homes and businesses is increasing traffic danger, but being elected to public office is just the beginning of engaging people, not the end. This has particular importance with the issue of traffic safety, because no one knows more about dangerous traffic situations than the people who live them every day.

Candidate for council: Nadia Dubyk

We can take a proactive approach to prioritize road safety to help prevent fatalities and serious injuries on our roads. The good news is we can leverage the learnings of what others have already figured out like the Vision Zero traffic safety approach. Cities and municipalities around the world, including in Ontario, have adopted this traffic safety approach to create their own plans, which have resulted in meaningful safety advances.

To address road safety in Grey Highlands, I would support:

  • Creation of a Road Safety Committee with representation across the Municipality to oversee the completion of a study of road issues and development of a Road Safety Plan.

  • Active engagement from the community early and often throughout the process.

  • Completion of a road safety study of the municipality identifying issues and hot spots.

  • Development of a Road Safety Plan, based on learnings from approaches like Vision Zero, that would include:

    • Roll-out of safety initiatives. Range of solutions is available such as senior, school and community safety zones; school crossing guard program; flexible in-road traffic calming sign; speed limit reduction on residential roads; cycling enhancements; sidewalks.

    • Launch of an educational campaign. A public education program to remind all road users to stay alert, exercise caution and obey rules of the road.

    • Creation of a dashboard. Track progress the municipality is making on the safety initiatives.

Together, we can make our community and roads safer in Grey Highlands.

Candidate for council: Emmett Ferguson

We are all still reeling from recent tragedies on our roads. Therefore I would take some short- term steps to install more meaningful safety measures like signs, lights, crosswalks, reflective posts and speed limits at key intersections, and along more in-town roadways lacking sidewalks. As need demands and according to community priorities, I think Grey Highlands may consider re-assigning funds from sources like the Community Improvement Grant or downtown/hamlet revitalization funds and others to get some things done faster than annual capital budgeting processes might otherwise allow. I would hope to lead more discussions about safety in each village and town in Grey Highlands. This could include the options for increased police presence, school crossing guards, and traffic slowing measures. As a ratepayer I would be happy to pay more if it means more constables to warn off speeders and more crossing guards to keep kids safe. As a councillor, input from local people on how to keep their communities safe is paramount, and I commit to building and personally facilitating more opportunities for people to be heard before big decisions are made. In the longer term I hope to work toward Vision Zero by funding more capital projects specifically for improving pedestrian and bicycle safety and access. This will include ensuring that all new developments include adequate public right-of-ways, sidewalks and traffic calming measures. Further, more attention should be paid to pedestrian and bicycling trails, paths, parks, and recreation or sport facilities so that more people can access their preferred exercise without undue risk.

Candidate for council: Gary Franklin

I actually believe there has been significant improvements in our area. The Hamlets seem to have had the speed reduced through them. Most of the towns are on Grey county roads, which obviously have the most traffic on them. There could be more police presence. It’s a very hard topic with more levels of government involved. I am open to all reasonable suggestions that would come across the table. 

Candidate for council: Joel Loughead

I have an 18-month-old son and my family lives on an increasingly busy county road. Speeding and road safety are very personal priorities for me. The speed limits have been lowered to 40km/h through some residential areas in Grey Highlands, which is a good start but ultimately meaningless without enforcement. Grey Highlands needs to implement traffic calming measures such as crosswalks, better signage and lighting, improved curbs and meridians, and increased sidewalks. The studies have been done--these measures are affordable, achievable, and save lives. It's time to get to work.

Candidate for council: Brian McCulloch

My position on road safety has not changed in six years. While volunteering with Kimberley Community Association (KCA) and President of the Beaver Valley Ratepayers Association (BVRA) in 2016, I made a presentation to the Grey County Transportation Committee about our concerns for road safety on County Road 13. A long hill into the Beaver Valley going north encouraged drivers to continue to exceed 50 km/hr through the Kimberley community. Drivers going south would accelerate early, while in the town to make it up the hill. We proposed an in-town speed of 40 kph and several traffic calming measures that finally, in 2021, were implemented. Of course, a small number of drivers still flaunt the law, are in a hurry and often are distracted. Modern farm tractors are larger, wider and don’t go quickly especially towing other equipment or harvested loads. Most often, operators drive the gravel roads and occasionally, they have to use paved routes. Wide turns or left turns into driveways often surprise urban drivers. It’s not a lot to ask all drivers to be respectful and patient or face dangerous driving fines or charges. As a councillor, I would support a Road Safety Audit that gathers accident data from the OPP. As well, the transportation/roads departments of both Grey Highlands and Grey County must have accident data, both statistical and anecdotal, to identify if it was related to a road design problem or driver error/negligence. We have to be proactive so that people can be safe everywhere in Grey Highlands. Solutions include education and warnings through signage and calming measures like traffic islands (a good example has just been completed south of Ravenna on County Road 2). Additional police enforcement may have to become part of an expense that is borne by residents.

Candidate for council: Lynn Silverton

Well, I’m glad you asked this question. As chair of the Police Services board I have worked with our board and we have sent resolutions to council to encourage them to take measures to reduce speed limits in our hamlets and consider stop signs in appropriate locations. Unfortunately, the current council hasn’t approved these suggestions. At this week’s PSB meeting we asked the current council to suggest to the upcoming new council to create a Road Safety Community Partnership Program. This advisory committee with seven public members will provide an opportunity to change the direction and improve our road safety. I would certainly like to participate in this new advisory committee.

Candidate for council: Joe Van der Vechte

This is a major concern in all of our communities. Our residents need safe communities where just the simple act of taking your pet for a walk, or taking an evening stroll does not turn into a tragedy. We need roads that are properly maintained, have sufficient lighting and sidewalks to allow for safe enjoyable walks in every community. That being said, we need to address the high-priority areas in every community, and put together a plan to work through these. We need to lobby the provincial and federal governments for funding. I understand this could be a long process, but I would start with the smaller items that we could do right away. The current council has done the studies, and it’s time to act. I would poll each community for their highest concerned areas and do those first. If we don’t have a plan, then we plan to fail. We need to start this ASAP to ensure the safety of our residents. I will always be open to listening to the concerns of our community, and fight for their rights.

Candidate for council: Christine Wagner

I have worked on Highway 10 for the last 13 years and risk my safety every day driving to and from work. We jokingly call it the autobahn, but all joking aside the volume of traffic has increased significantly even in the last two years. We need crosswalks with enforced penalties.  We need more police presence and speed reduction in higher pedestrian areas. We need to take control of the heavy trucks on our rural dirt roads leaving the road unsafe for local resident traffic.

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About the Author: Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Chris Fell covers The Blue Mountains and Grey Highlands under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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