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Alma residents pushing for new crosswalk on County Road 17

Parents want the issue dealt with now 'rather than reactively finding solutions to a tragedy in the future'
truck turning
Residents says the only existing street crossing, pictured here at the intersection of County Roads 7 and 17, is dangerously congested.

ALMA - The Township of Mapleton is investigating whether a busy stretch of County Road 17 warrants the installation of a crosswalk after hearing from a group of residents concerned about children traversing the thoroughfare on their way to school. 

At Tuesday night's meeting, Tracey Geddes told council increased traffic on County Road 17 necessitated a lit, button-controlled crosswalk and suggested  the entrance to Wallace Cummings Park as the location. Until one could be installed, she asked the township to assign a crossing guard to help students make their way across the road during peak hours. 

"There is no argument that traffic has increased on County Road 17," Geddes said, referencing a recent county study and residents' own observations. 

"We feel this it is time to proactively address this issue now, rather than reactively finding solutions to a tragedy in the future."

Pedestrian and traffic safety in Alma has been the focus of several council discussions in recent months following a county decision to reroute trucks away from downtown Fergus and through the hamlet instead. 

Right now, Geddes said, the only designated spot to cross County Road 17 is at the intersection with County Road 7. 

"This intersection can be overwhelming at times as it is the main junction in our community," she continued. 

The other option, navigating traffic on one of the side streets, concerns her "as a parent," she said. 

Responding to the delegation, Coun. Dennis Craven said he knew many people in the area "who drive their kids to school because it's not safe."

The township spends hundreds of thousands of dollars every year on fire and police, Craven said.

"Why would be expect our kids and seniors to cross the road with no help," he continued. 

Meanwhile, Mayor Gregg Davidson said as much as council might want to, "it's not as easy as just saying we want to put a crosswalk in."

"We have to follow the guidelines set out by the county," Davidson said, noting those are based on recommendations from the Transportation Authority of Canada. 

Requirements include a minimum distance from an existing traffic light and a minimum amount of cars and pedestrians. 

Even if those conditions are met, the process of getting a crosswalk approved and installed can be lengthy. 

"When we got the one in Drayton, I think it took three years," Davidson said. 

Council ultimately voted to start the process by asking staff to investigate whether the Alma location meets requirement.