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Town going ahead with safety zone

Wednesday, 16 March 2011 - 1:04pm
By Duane Hicks, Staff writer

With the aim to improve traffic safety in the west end of town, council has supported the designation of a “community safety zone” along King’s Highway from just west of the Fort Frances Cemetery to just west of the McIrvine Road intersection.
The move is a first step in making the corridor safer for pedestrians through increased education and enforcement.
 “We’ve always had difficulty with traffic in that area going faster than the posted speed limit,” noted Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft, who chairs the Operations and Facilities executive committee.
“There’s three schools in that area, too. There’s a park in that area,” he added.
“We’ve had difficulty getting students across that four-lane highway, so I believe the community safety zone will help, especially if it’s enforced.
“There’s two things that are critical—you need education of the public and you need enforcement,” Coun. Wiedenhoeft argued. “Once you get those two things in place, I think you can slow down traffic in that area.
“Because it’s critical that [we] protect the safety of the students and the public trying to cross that four-lane highway,” he stressed.
The “community safety zone” idea first was brought forward for council’s consideration in September, 2009 by OPP community services/media relations officer Cst. Anne McCoy and Elaine Fischer of the Active Transportation Committee.
Cst. McCoy said yesterday she’s happy to see the process move ahead, noting it is a good example of “community cohesiveness.”
“I’m pleased to see that together we are moving forward and making a statement that pedestrian safety is important to the town, especially concerning our youth,” she remarked.
“Together, the Town of Fort Frances, Safe Communities Rainy River District, Active
Transportation Committee, and Traffic Safety Committee will be able to pull in the stakeholders to strategically promote pedestrian safety and ‘traffic calming’ throughout Fort Frances,” added Cst. McCoy.
“It’s a great first step to enhance communication between our partners and to promote a safe community, especially for our youth.”
The town then met with the MTO in March, 2010, at which time the process of designating a community safety zone was explained.
This, in turn, was followed by traffic flow pattern surveys conducted in June, 2010 at three locations along King’s Highway—the McIrvine Road intersection, Keating Avenue intersection, and Webster Avenue intersection.
Last August, town staff were able to get accident records from the provincial government.
The town then met with the MTO again on Feb. 22, when compiled data was presented. The matter then was discussed at a March 9 meeting of the Operations and Facilities executive committee.
At Monday evening’s meeting, council approved the following recommendations from the Operations and Facilities executive committee:
•support the designation of a modified community safety zone based around the school year, being in effect during the hours of 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday to Friday, during the months of September through June;
•direct administration to prepare the necessary documentation in accordance with application guidelines for designating a community safety zone on a provincial highway;
•ensure that after consultation takes place, an application to designate a “safe community zone” here be submitted to the Ministry of the Solicitor General for approval;
•ensure the digital rate of speed sign purchased by the Community Policing Committee is set up more frequently along the proposed community safety zone;
•have the town, along with Safe Communities Rainy River District, the health unit, and traffic safety advisory committee, look into the joint purchase of two permanent digital rate speed signs in the future (these will be set up just east and west of the Keating Avenue intersection);
•have the timing of the south Keating Avenue pedestrian “don’t walk” and flashing “don’t walk” symbols be adjusted to provide a longer walk time and shorter flashing “don’t walk” time (this would be communicated to local schools prior to adjustment);
•have additional public education be considered for all parties involved with pedestrian safety (students, school staff, parents, etc.);
•eliminate the constantly flashing lights just east and west of the pedestrian walkway near McDonald’s (these can be distracting to motorists, and lead them to not pay attention when pedestrians actually are using the crosswalk with the overhanging lights);
•have the OPP business plan for the next three years communicate a stronger enforcement presence along the proposed community safety zone is needed, with emphasis being placed at the Keating Avenue intersection;
•have the Operations and Facilities division prepare drawings outlining all existing traffic signage within the proposed community safety zone and proposed future changed to signage there;
•have the traffic safety advisory committee and the OPP community services officer co-ordinate with the MTO to make a presentation on the available pedestrian safety programs;
•add the OPP community services officer to the traffic safety advisory committee as a resource and that the terms of reference be revised to reflect this revision;
•hold a traffic safety advisory committee meeting each June with all safety groups to review the existing traffic signage and controls, and to determine if any improvements should occur prior to the start of the next school year (this will include all forms of traffic movements on roads and sidewalks surrounding all schools in Fort Frances); and
•review the winter control policy prior to the 2011/12 season to determine if any changes need to be made to support pedestrian safety programs which may be in development.

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