On Monday evening Thunder Bay City Council supported a resolution I brought forward asking the mayor and the inter-governmental committee to encourage the Minister of Transportation to improve highway safety along highway 11/17.
Over a month ago there was a terrible tragedy involving a fatality at the corner of John St. and highway 11/17.
If one digs deeper and examines the data from the MTO as well as EMS it is clear that this is not an isolated incident. We have problems at this intersection as well as many of the highway intersections across the city.
This problem, as I see it, is two fold. Not only do we have vehicle-vehicle incidents, but also vehicle – pedestrians incidents.
In terms of the vehicle- vehicle incidents I am a big supporter of intersection warning lights like the ones on the Harbour expressway and at the Balsam street intersection. These signs give drivers the information they need to negotiate the intersection by either continuing at their current speed or slowing down, thereby better preparing them for the unexpected.
For vehicle-pedestrian conflict there are municipal standards for pedestrian safety that are applied throughout the city including the Active Transportation plan; unfortunately the city standards are not applied to MTO property, including the highways. Therefore, as a result, we have residential areas which have these pedestrian safety standards that are dissected by the highway which essentially have no standards.
If the province wants to continue with these at grade crossings and not clover leaf overpasses, then these pedestrian safety standards need to be enhanced throughout these corridors. This could include building sidewalks through the intersection, line markings, pedestrian barriers, countable/auditory pedestrian crossing signs, and widening of the streets to allow cyclists. All of these measures would improve safety.
The province has made a number of announcements regarding funding of highway improvements and the construction apparently is starting soon. I am hopeful that the letter from the mayor with the strength of a Council resolution is enough to persuade the Minister of Transportation that if we are going to spend millions of dollars building the highway it is important that we do it right, in a way that benefits our community.