by Deron Johnston
This past summer, there was a tragedy on County Road 43 (CR 43), when a local resident was struck by a vehicle while walking at night. Local resident, Gary Boal 63, died while doing the responsible thing of walking home (instead of driving) after having a few drinks at a social event. The particular section of road where the tragedy took place has a bridge and is unlit. The bridge has a very narrow sidewalk (that amounts to little more than a ledge) on each side to walk on, in order to cross the bridge.
CR 43 has long been a safety concern for vehicles and, especially, pedestrians and cyclists. The proposed expansion of CR 43 to four lanes has been the subject of a multi-year campaign by the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville (UCLG), who are responsible for the maintenance and control of the road. Insisting that they need Provincial and/or Federal Government funding to complete the proposed $30 million expansion, the project remains on the shelf, but “shovel-ready”.
On February 11, the North Grenville Times sent an email to UCLG Public Works Department after a concerned resident pointed out that the sidewalk on the CR 43 bridge was impassable because of the buildup of snow and ice. The resident also identified that a number of people (especially young people) sometimes must walk along sections of CR 43, especially if they work at any of the businesses in the Colonnade development. The resident also wondered why there still wasn’t a light at the bridge to make that section safer at night, especially following the tragedy in the summer at that exact spot.
UCLG Public Works responded: “We will clean up the snow on the bridge tonight and ensure our operators use the plow wing to maintain conditions in the future”. True to their word, the snow was indeed removed that night, but the ice underneath remained, so that it was still not accessible to pedestrians.
Impressively, two nights later, a front-end loader was seen attempting to scrape the ice from the bridge sidewalk; but it was unsuccessful, because it had to put two wheels on the sidewalk in order for the blade to reach up on to it. This meant that the loader itself was tilted and, therefore, the blade couldn’t sit flat enough to scrape off all of the ice. Not long after, mild weather melted the ice and the sidewalk was usable again. However, as of press time, snow was piled up on the sidewalk again.
As far as the lighting of the bridge, the reply from the UCLG to our e-mail simply noted that: “Regarding street lights, we have a design that is proposed as part of the improvements planned for CR 43”. It’s difficult to understand why a simple temporary light of some kind couldn’t be placed at the bridge to make that section safer for everyone until the “planned improvements” could be completed. This does not appear to be an unreasonable request, it’s only a single street light.
Every once in a while, what appears to be an obvious opportunity presents itself for someone to step forward and demonstrate leadership. Rather than fall into a discussion over whose responsibility something is, you hope that someone steps forward, takes on the responsibility and simply does what they need to do to resolve the situation. In this case, it is a matter of public safety,