'We can do a lot better': Councillor says city needs to prioritize safety strategy after pedestrian deaths
Winnipeg's public works committee wants extra gas tax revenue to pay for local road repairs this summer
A road safety strategy is urgently needed to reduce fatalities on Winnipeg's streets, the councillor for Waverley West told the city's public works committee Tuesday.
Coun. Janice Lukes told the four-member committee Winnipeg is falling behind cities like Calgary and Toronto, which have created guides or "focusing documents" that prioritize safety on city streets.
"If we don't do that, it's just a shotgun approach," Lukes said.
Her comments come after two fatal collisions involving pedestrians on Winnipeg streets last month. A 41-year-old man died after being struck by a car while crossing Osborne Street at the intersection with Morley Avenue on March 20.
And on March 18, a four-year-old girl and her mother were hit at the crosswalk at Isabel Street and Alexander Avenue, near Dufferin School. The girl died and her mother was left with serious injuries to her lower body.
In January 2017, city staff was directed to create a road safety strategy but it was never completed. The civil service said Tuesday the work done on that strategy will now be incorporated into the city's transportation master plan, set to be completed in the coming years.
"I don't know what's been going on in the department for two years," said Lukes.
She suggested hiring a staff member whose sole job would be to oversee changes to reduce deadly accidents on Winnipeg streets — changes that could include reducing speed limits, improving signage and updating crosswalks with more visible lights and warnings.
"We can do a lot better," Lukes said.
After Tuesday's meeting, public works chair Matt Allard, the councillor for St. Boniface, said city staff already value safety in their decision making. He said over the past year, the committee has received verbal reports on road safety improvements.
"The public service is doing their job," said Allard. "They're always doing better as new technology becomes available."
Committee looks to spend $40M
During Tuesday's meeting, Coun. Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan) put forward a motion to use extra funds promised from Ottawa to pay for local road work.
The federal budget, which has yet to be passed, earmarks an additional $40 million dollars in gas tax revenue for Winnipeg.
Browaty suggested all of the funds should go toward paying for local road repairs put on hold after the city received less funding from the province than it expected.
His motion passed after a brief debate, but included an amendment to include active transportation projects along with local road repairs.
"This is an opportunity to restore the [road repair] program that we had intended to do for 2019," said Browaty.
The motion now goes to Mayor Brian Bowman's executive policy committee for consideration.
City administrators say they will need to know by May whether the $40 million is available in order to start road work projects this summer.
Safety study for Isabel Street
Coun. Vivian Santos (Point Douglas) introduced two motions Tuesday looking at safety improvements for Isabel Street.
The committee unanimously passed both of Santos's motions.
The first asks for a traffic study at Isabel and Alexander Avenue, where the mother and daughter were hit.
The intersection already has a crosswalk but Santos believes changes could be made to make it more visible to drivers — including installing additional, lower flashing lights.
The second motion asks the city to look at installing a traffic light to replace an existing crosswalk at Ross Avenue and Isabel, near the Freight House Recreation Centre and a popular Tim Hortons.
Members of the public service said traffic engineers will study both intersections at the same time to develop their recommendations. They have 90 days to report back to the public works committee.