City approaches solution for Carlton crosswalk dilemma

Herald file photo.

The City of Prince Albert plans to build a $30,000 crosswalk between Carlton Court Plaza and Carlton Comprehensive High School to improve pedestrian safety.

The new crosswalk will see flashing yellow beacons installed on Sixth Avenue East, provided it receives final approval at the next city council meeting in August. The design was one of six up for deliberation.

Mayor Greg Dionne said he’s seen similar crosswalks in other cities, and he’s confident it will do the job in Prince Albert.

“I think that’s the answer, instead of the light that just points down and lights up the crosswalk, and in the summer you don’t even see it,” Dionne said. “This (option) was impressive. When you went up, the beacons were big and that’s what (the city is) proposing—two of them on both sides where it flashes like a train crossing.”

While most councillors were on board with the plan, some were concerned about the lack of consultation with Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Board.

Ward 8 Coun. Ted Zurakowski was the first to raise the issue. He said the school board should have some “skin in the game,” either by helping to fund the project, or by consulting with the city. In past discussions, Sask. Rivers have indicated that they would not support the project financially, something Zurakowski acknowledged. However, he said there’s still no excuse for not getting an opinion from the school board.

“We’re working independently of the school board to deal with the flow of their students, at mostly noon hour, and I’m concerned that the school board is not weighing in on the solution,” he said during Monday’s executive committee meeting.

“I would like to hear an answer from the school board: either yes, no, or do what you want, we don’t care,” he added.

The project’s supporters say there is still plenty of time for consultation. The item won’t come back before council until Aug. 19, and Dionne and others say that’s long enough for the school board to weigh in, if they want to.

Dionne and others also said the crosswalk benefits more than just Carlton students. Because of that, he said the city has a right to make the decision independently.

“It’s not just Carlton’s crosswalk,” he said. “I use that crosswalk. Lots of the general public use that crosswalk, so we have to decide whether it’s our crosswalk or the school’s. If you want it to be the school’s then let’s wash our hands and do nothing (and) leave it the way it is.”

Traffic counts from last June indicate that as many as 300 Carlton students cross Sixth Avenue on foot during the noon hour alone. Most of those students use the current crosswalk, however the city worries that the large number of users in a short time span is disrupting traffic.

“The overhead crosswalk signs that were implemented in 2007, along with education at the school, has eliminated the concern of jaywalking pedestrians,” Transportation and Traffic Manager Keri Sapsford wrote in a report presented to council. “However in channelizing all 300 students to this crosswalk there is more disruption to Traffic as cars must stop and wait for all pedestrians to cross. This has caused traffic backup and driver frustration at this crosswalk, which compounds the safety issues at this crossing, as frustrated drivers are not typically careful drivers.”

Sapsford added that there is no easy answer to the problem, which has been debated since 1987. However, she’s confident the new crosswalk additions will make the area safer for drivers and pedestrians.

“Currently this crosswalk is signed and marked with paint,” she told council. “We have the overhead sign and crosswalk indication, and vehicles are required to stop for pedestrians, however, we’ve all heard from pedestrians that vehicles aren’t always doing this and we’ve also heard from drivers that pedestrians aren’t taking consideration to letting vehicles pass through either, which is frustrating for drivers. The recommended flashing yellow lights help to make pedestrians more visible so that people are aware of when a pedestrian is actually using the crosswalk.”