Sackville councillors skeptical about need for 3rd set of traffic lights

Mt. A. students use this crosswalk on Main St. near Purdy Crawford Centre, the Avard Dixon building and Windsor Hall student residences

Town Engineer Dwayne Acton has recommended that Sackville spend $32,775 to install a full set of traffic signals where thousands of Mount Allison students cross Main Street on their way to and from university residences, the Jennings Dining Hall and buildings on the main campus.

“We’ve had numerous comments from residents about the crosswalk,” Acton told town council during its meeting on Tuesday. “We’ve had expressed concerns from the university from a safety standpoint as well.”

Acton said that the town has already improved lighting at the crosswalk, but further evaluation showed the need for more safety features.

He added that town staff considered installing flashing signals such as the ones at the crosswalk on Main Street across from the post office, but decided that a full set of red, green and amber lights along with a walk signal would be the safest and best option for pedestrians and motorized vehicles alike.

Acton explained that the signals would be similar to those at Main, Bridge and York Streets or Mallard Drive and Main where pedestrians push buttons to activate walk signals while motorists wait at red lights.

He said the town received quotes for installing the lights from three New Brunswick companies with the lowest one for $32,775 from Roadway Systems Ltd. of Moncton, the company that looks after the town’s other traffic signals as well as its flashing crosswalk lights.

Acton noted that the quote is lower than the $38,600 the town allocated for crosswalk lighting in this year’s capital budget, adding that at its meeting next week, he will ask town council to approve awarding the work to Roadway Systems.

‘False safety feelings’

Coun. Joyce O’Neil

Several councillors responded to Acton’s proposal by expressing skepticism about the need for traffic lights at the crosswalk.

“I still can’t help but feel it’s going to give false safety feelings to the drivers or the students that are crossing,” said Councillor Joyce O’Neil. “Just from being on that street and watching how they [the students] come across that street with their iPads or their cell phones and so on, they don’t even know they’re off campus when they’re crossing that road, so whether they’re going to take time to press a friggin’ button, I don’t know,” she added.

O’Neil also said that using crossing guards at peak times would have more of an impact on safety than traffic lights.

When she wondered whether the university had been asked if it would share the cost of installing traffic signals, CAO Phil Handrahan responded that when he discussed the matter with Mount Allison, “they basically see roads and crosswalks as being our responsibility and they don’t see that they would be sharing in the cost of such.”

Signals won’t work

Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken

“I hate to sound cynical about this,” said Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken, “[but] you can’t legislate stupid and these students, I don’t believe them sometimes, they just literally march across like it’s a private driveway and I honestly don’t think having a button to push is going to change that at all.”

Aiken also questioned Mount Allison’s worries about safety.

“If they’re so concerned about safety, why in all these years haven’t they put up or paid for a crossing guard there? It’s a pittance. For thirty-some thousand bucks, you could put a crossing guard there for five years,” he added.

“I honestly don’t think this [the signals] will work,” Aiken said.

 Previous study

Coun. Bruce Phinney

Councillor Bruce Phinney referred to a study of the crosswalk conducted for the town in 2006. The study was supervised by Mount Allison Professor Michael Fox.

Its main recommendation was that the town and the university share the costs of providing crossing guards at peak times during the 24 weeks of the university’s fall and winter terms.

“We believe that this would be the most effective measure that could be employed in addressing pedestrian safety and the appropriate flow of vehicles through this area during peak periods of the day,” Fox’s study concluded.

At the same time, it recommended against installing traffic control devices because they would “actually increase wait times and result in pedestrian avoidance and inappropriate behaviours.”

To read the complete study, click here.

Councillor Phinney noted that at the time, Mount Allison rejected sharing the costs of crossing guards.

(On March 7, 2007, the Sackville Tribune Post quoted then-university Vice-President David Stewart as saying: “We just didn’t think it was going to be an effective way to deal with the concerns…We didn’t think that a crosswalk guard was going to improve the situation —either from a safety point of view or from a vehicle stop time point of view. It didn’t seem to us to be the right way to handle it.”)

During Tuesday’s council meeting, Phinney said the university should be willing to pay something if it’s really concerned about student safety.

“I’m very, very concerned about the fact that all of a sudden now, all the costs is put onto the taxpayers of the town,” Phinney said.

Legal liability

CAO Phil Handrahan

CAO Phil Handrahan responded that the university has not been officially asked if it would help pay for traffic signals at the crosswalk.

He suggested that as far as the town is concerned, there are issues of legal liability.

“It’s only two or three weeks ago that our treasurer and our engineer were involved in discovery working with our lawyers around an incident on a crosswalk,” Handrahan said. “So in this instance we’ve got safety being raised whether it’s informal or formally, we’ve discussed it [and] I don’t think any of us can put our heads in the sand and say it doesn’t exist.”

For his part, Mayor Higham suggested the university should be asked about its willingness to contribute financially.

“My suggestion would be that I hear multiple interest in having Mount Allison express whether they would want to share this in some manner because it is a shared risk in many ways,” Higham said.

The mayor then asked the CAO to “reach out” to the university to see if “they are willing and able to participate in it financially.”

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9 Responses to Sackville councillors skeptical about need for 3rd set of traffic lights

  1. Les Hicks says:

    I completely agree with councillors O’Neil, Phinney, and Aiken on this issue. If the university students actually acted like adults instead of kindergarten children there wouldn’t be a problem at that crosswalk. I’m sure any citizen who has driven on the academy stretch during busy periods when the students are going back and forth to residences and the cafeteria has witnessed a steady stream of students crossing Main St, not even looking to see if traffic is stopping before they enter the crosswalk. The ones who do look at all obviously see the long line of cars waiting for a break in the pedestrian traffic but they just keep on going. To be fair I have witnessed some students with common sense who see the long line of traffic and pause before entering the crosswalk to let some cars pass, but in most cases the other students walk right by them into the crosswalk on their merry way. This problem could be easily solved by some mutual respect and cooperation between the pedestrians and motorists. The idea of needing crossing guards for ADULT university students would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad, but that would at least make much more sense than the town spending money for a third set of traffic lights in this town when they are not needed. This, on top of the other fiascos we have witnessed recently (who can forget the $500,000 contaminated soil affair, as it later came to be known), really causes me concern about the judgement of our town management staff.

    • Percy Best says:

      I totally agree with you Les. The very extensive, 42 page, 2006 report (which has the link above) that was done by Dr Michael Fox and others for this very same crosswalk stated on page 31 the following. “Based on our analysis of the pedestrian flows and vehicle wait time situations at this location, we believe that increased signalization would actually increase potential modal conflicts, since pedestrians would tend not to use the pedestrian-activated signals, nor would they respect longer delays while there was a red signal/don’t walk indicator. Likewise any added signalization would result in a minimum wait time of 30 seconds, which is longer than the existing wait times for 90% of vehicles travelling through this intersection.”

      So, according to this last major study it would seem that the $32,775 expenditure will be just another waste of Town taxpayers’ money and a step backwards in assuring the safety of students. Please read the study.

  2. ” Adulting ” is crossing safely as grownups on crosswalks that are marked and well used .. something for their resumes once they are done achieving their ‘educational pieces of paper’… adulting… the idea of a cross-guard for grown men and women made me laugh out loud.

  3. RhadLife says:

    What about a pedestrian overpass? It could serve as a Welcome To Sackville sign as well!

  4. Norm Cole says:

    Years ago a traffic light was looked at for King and Main. Councillors were told the provincial government would let the town install another traffic light on their 940. Was that true and is that still true? It appears the University has as much liability as the town. I see an underpass (tunnel) or overhead walkway as the only way to fix the problem that has been and will continue to expand the university. Does someone have to die before they decide who is liable? These people are educated. Figure out who’s going to get sued and how much a life is worth.

  5. Kelly Alder says:

    I’m sure with the quarter of a million or so mta endowment they could afford to build a pedestrian walkway above the roadway if they are really concerned about this issue. Time for them to put their money where their mouth is. Tax payers in this town have enough now to pay for. As a taxpayer of a residence and two commercial properties I don’t feel this is proper use of the taxpayers dollars. We don’t have any sidewalks or crosswalks on the exit 506 end of town and their are small children regularly crossing busy street to the industrial park to do garbage pickups and bottle returns. After studies done several ears ago it appears the town may finally be installing a sidewalk, but not sure about a crosswalk for the young children and their teachers? Maybe these lives aren’t as important to some of the towns senior staff? I feel they are far more vulnerable than adults. Bravo to the councillors who spoke up against this expenditure.

  6. Rob says:

    The combined volume of vehicular and pedestrian traffic is really just too great to be overcome with a surface-based solution such as a light, a lighted-crosswalk, or a crossing guard (as adorable as this latter option would be). An overpass would have to be high enough for truck traffic and might look (and be) a little superfluous for the purpose. A short, well-lit, pedestrian tunnel on the other hand…

    At any rate, it seems that both the university and the town didn’t fully think through the implications (for the town) of MtA’s mid-2000s decision to consolidate dining services at Jennings.

  7. Jim says:

    Sorry I’m still in favour of traffic light, pedway and tunnel seem like over kill. Do motorists legally have to stop at multi coloured stripes on the road ? Never saw that in the drivers hand book and isn’t that why Moncton decided against painting sidewalks like that ? All in all standard markings should be used and lights in, if that protects our young people and all citizens for that matter it would be a small price to pay.

  8. Kathryn Hamer Edwards says:

    I can’t claim to have all the answers, but has anyone considered a posted speed limit reduction from King Street to a point between the problematic crosswalk and the Anglican church? We now have 40 km/hr posted on Salem Street; we have three crosswalks on York Street where students regularly cross, though not at the volume noted with respect to the Jennings crosswalk. Potential safety issues could be addressed there as well.
    As for Counsellor Aiken’s comment that “You can’t legislate stupid”, I have to say I’m disappointed that a former faculty member would be so cavalier in his comments on MtA students. Moreover, I think we can all cite instances in which his comment could apply to people of all ages, with or without headphones or i-Pads or whatever, who cross anywhere they wish along Main Street in particular. All he needs to do is watch noon-hour activity on Main Street near the grocery store or post office to know students are not the only culprits.
    I know how aggravating it can be to wait, sometimes for ten minutes, for students to realize they are holding up traffic; but it seems to me that some positive town-gown cooperation could help in this regard, without costing huge sums of taxpayer or university dollars.

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