Winnipeg mulls lights at dangerous crossing

Major changes are being proposed for what city officials say is the most dangerous pedestrian crosswalk along one of the busiest streets in Winnipeg.

Major changes are being proposed for what city officials say is the most dangerous pedestrian crosswalk along one of the busiest streets in Winnipeg.

Mayor Sam Katz's Executive Policy Committee (EPC) approved a plan Wednesday to install new traffic lights along Osborne Street at Wardlaw Avenue near the heart of Osborne Village.

The hope is that the new crosswalk lights — dubbed a half-signal — will provide more safety to pedestrians trying to cross Osborne, where between 1998 and 2007, 12 pedestrians were hit, according to a city report.

Most recently, on Feb. 23, Estevan Calderon, 14, was struck by a car and severely injured while crossing at the crosswalk, which has been in place since 1968.

At the time the teen was hit, people in the area called for the city to install a traffic light, saying the intersection was extremely dangerous.

About 29,000 vehicles a day pass along Osborne headed north and south from the downtown area, the city report said. The sheer volume of traffic makes it one of the city's busiest routes.

According to the report, the public works department wants to erect the new signal in 2011 at a cost of $105,000, not including maintenance of $5,000 a year.

Won't delay traffic: report

The new device will feature standard red, amber and green lights facing vehicle traffic headed north and south on Osborne.

A pedestrian wanting to cross the street will press a button and the lights will switch to amber, then red, bringing cars to a full stop. The person crossing will be faced with automated and illuminated "Walk" or "Don't Walk" signs.

Currently, the crosswalk has a series of overhead flashing amber lights, which are sometimes easy for drivers to miss. Motorists have also complained that pedestrians don't wait long enough for traffic to stop before walking into the roadway.

The city report said pedestrians must wait for the north-south lights to turn completely red for the "Walk" signal to light up.

At all other times, the north-south lights will remain green, allowing vehicles to pass freely. The city said it believes the new system will actually reduce delays.

City council as a whole must still approve the plan and will consider it at a meeting next week.