North Grenville Municipal Council has decided to spend upwards of $42,000 to make a section of Concession Road safer for pedestrians.
Safety along Concession Road has been a hot topic for several years. In 2016, a petition signed by residents was presented to council outlining their concerns about the speed at which some people were traveling along the road, and some suggestions on how it could be addressed. Mayor Nancy Peckford says pedestrian safety was also an issue when she was knocking on doors in the neighbourhoods surrounding the road. Kemptville District Hospital, two schools and one of the entrances to the Kemptville College, which includes three more schools and several other organizations, are on Concession Road.
Because of the concern expressed by residents, a traffic study was done of Concession Road and Prescott Street to assess the area and figure out what the municipality could do to make it safer. The report prepared by the consulting firm WSP came back with a number of recommendations which were presented to council on March 12. The recommendations included several speed mitigating tactics, as well as a suggested pedestrian crossing at Concession Road and Campus Drive, right by the Service Ontario. It was suggested that it be a basic crossing, including signage on the road sufficiently set back from sidewalks, lines painted on the road and illumination from a streetlight.
After the WSP presentation, council directed staff to do a further investigation into whether a higher-class system with a crossing light would be warranted at that intersection. At the committee of the whole meeting on June 11, Director of Public Works Karen Dunlop told council that staff agreed with the WSP report that a system with a crossing light was not warranted. The staff report also stated that the area should continue to be monitored yearly to see if the situation changes over time.
All members of council except for Mayor Nancy Peckford were in favour of staff’s recommendation. “I am not confident that our residents will believe this is a strong enough mitigation measure,” she said at the meeting. The rest of council seemed comfortable with the report because its conclusions were evidence-based and prepared by knowledgeable traffic control experts, as well as their own staff. “To me, we have to go by evidence and data, otherwise we would be putting these things on every street,” Deputy Mayor Jim McManaman said. “I want to make sure we are answering this question with the data.”
When it was called to question, the motion to accept staff’s recommendations was carried. However, at the council meeting of June 18, Councillor John Barclay brought the question back to council. “I had a change of heart after some sober second thought and I have on the table a motion to amend the resolution that we recommended last week,” he said. His motion recommended that they go ahead with spending the extra $42,000 that staff had outlined to put in place a higher-class crosswalk, with a crossing light at the intersection. “I think there is a great concern amongst the community about the security of that crossing and that an extra step is warranted,” he explained. “We have the hospital, elementary schools and high schools. It’s the perfect storm of concern and danger crossing that road.” The motion also suggested that they use the funds from the federal gas tax to pay for the crossing system.
Councillor Kristin Strackerjan also seemed to have a change of heart. “As a parent of three kids who will hopefully be on the campus for the duration of their elementary and secondary schooling, I think that it’s a wise move and it will hopefully open more families and children to be able to walk to school,” she said.
Deputy Mayor McManaman was the only member of council who opposed the motion, stating that he was still more comfortable with the evidence-based approach taken by WSP and municipal staff. “I believe the study was a good spend,” he said. “I travel that road every day and I don’t see that this would make a big difference.”
When it came to a vote, the motion to accept the recommendations of WSP but go ahead with the extra $42,000 to install the higher-class crossing system was carried. Deputy Mayor McManaman was the only one to reject the motion.
“[There is] no doubt that we are in a very classic chicken and egg situation, where parents aren’t utilizing the existing infrastructure and are in fact hesitant to encourage kids to walk to school,” Mayor Peckford said. “It’s about that neighbourhood and we heard loud and clear from a variety of residents, young and old, that they have a variety of concerns – which lead to the original study.”