Petrolia council commits cash to build new crosswalk in downtown

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Petrolia will review some of the crosswalks in the downtown .

Petrolia councillors want crosswalks in the downtown improved as soon as possible.

So, during Tuesday’s budget deliberations, they added $60,000 to the 2023 document for the equipment to put amber flashing lights at one of the problematic crossings.

In 2019, council looked at a study which recommended removing sidewalks with road markings but no lights. The consultant said they aren’t legal crosswalks. The consultant wanted the amber crossing at the TD Bank improved and two more placed at the corners of Petrolia Line and Queen St. and Petrolia Line and Princess St. where children cross to go to school.

Council shelved the report with Mayor Brad Loosley voicing concern at the time about how adding the crossings would removed downtown parking.

But earlier this month, Lambton County Development Services urged council to reconsider the study. One of the people supported by LCDS had been hit at the corner of King and Petrolia Line in the dark on Dec. 22. She was seriously injured.

Executive Director Nick Salaris said this was the second person supported by LCDS hurt while attempting to cross Petrolia Line in eight months.

Council agreed Jan. 9 to take a look at the issue, asking staff to get another study to determine what was needed, since, some said, traffic volume has increased.

Staff placed $10,000 in the 2023 budget for that study.

Mike Thompson, director of operations, said the town would wait until the theatre season before starting another traffic study. That would be until at least May.

“We want him here for the first show of the season when the town is its busiest,” he told council.
But councillors wanted more action. Councillors Debb Pitel, Joel Field, Chad Hyatt, Bill Clark and Liz Welsh wanted action now. Pitel first suggested the town start an education program on crosswalk safety with some of the money set aside for the study.

Field said the new study wasn’t necessary for council to act. “We’re going to have more traffic, we know that.

“We should look at the crossings that are not legal and act on them…remove them,” he said. “Could we not start to act…getting rid of the crosswalk at the top of the hill?”

That led to other suggestions with Welsh saying the painted crosswalks were “terrible” and suggesting at the minimum, the town should remove one of the parking spots in front of them now so drivers can see that someone is crossing.
Clark suggested the town should start by installing a new crosswalk with amber lights at Princess and Petrolia, where there is currently a crossing guard.

But Loosley cautioned council against making a concrete decision during budget.

“I don’t think you should rush into this,” he said adding council had to consider what more crosswalks would do to the “character of the downtown.”
Councillor Ross O’Hara also urged caution saying “Main street parking is very important to people. They don’t want to park out behind (a business) somewhere and walk out to the main street.”

It’s estimated installing a crosswalk would take one or two parking spaces out of the downtown.

That didn’t sit well with Field. “I would caution council about talking about parking spots over the potential of losing a life,” he said. “What is a the cost of a life?’

Pitel and Hyatt then came up with a plan to put $60,000 into the 2023 budget so at least one new crosswalk with overhead lights could be installed.

“I cannot support the delaying of this when we can earmark $60,000 for port-a-johns (which had been approved moments earlier in the budget process) and then say this is not about safety.”

Council then approved placing the cash in the budget, spending about $7,000 for another traffic study and $5,000 to help educate people to be aware of pedestrians in the downtown and the proper use of crosswalks.

Staff will return to council with suggestions on the next steps. Clerk Mandi Pearson added changes like this should go to a public council agenda as residents may want to weigh in on the issue.