BY LINDSAY BRISCOE
As of last week, the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) has begun removal of the crosswalk signage and pavement markings on Hwy 618 (Howey St.) in front of Red Lake Madsen Public School.
Annemarie Piscopo, spokesperson for the MTO sent workers to remove the crosswalk after the Municipality of Red Lake removed the crossing guard who used to supervise it.
“Supervised school crossings are implemented at locations where school or municipal authorities have provided written assurance that the school crossing will be supervised by a school crossing guard,” she said, in an e-mail. “Signage and pavement markings are required to designate a supervised school crossing and must be removed when the crossing is no longer being supervised. The Municipality of Red Lake notified the Ministry that as of November 4, 2013 this school crossing would no longer be supervised. As a result, we’ve removed the signage and markings.”
Municipal CAO Mark Vermette says the decision was made after the last crossing guard retired and numerous attempts to find a replacement were unsuccessful.
“A Public Works employee did man the crosswalk up through November 1st. We found this not to be cost effective as the Public Works employee earns more than a crossing guard; plus it took away from the employee’s daily Public Works responsibilities. The removal of the crossing guard is an annual savings of $10,000.”
He says the new parking lot built at the edge of the schoolyard as well as the sidewalk on the North side of Hwy 618 should help cut down on the number of pedestrians crossing the street to get to the school. The parking spaces along the south side of Howey St. in the school zone are privately owned, he adds.
Video Plus owner Dave Fetterly, whose business is on the south side of the crosswalk, is baffled by the move. He says despite the 50 km/hr. speed limit in the school zone, vehicles are coming through well over the speed limit.
“Business aside, there is no crosswalk in front of the school. It makes no sense that we don’t have one there,” he says. “But now that the crosswalk is being removed, it removes the obligation for anyone to stop, whether it be pulp trucks like the one going by right now or small cars. Nobody has to stop.”
The MTO says pedestrians crossing Hwy 618 should do so at the nearest intersection or at the other school crossing on Highway 618 at Hammel Rd.
But Fetterly isn’t convinced people are going to walk down to the stoplight or the Hammel Rd intersection just to cross the street.
“People will cross at the most convenient point,” he says. “People have been doing it for 30 years – for as long as I can remember – at this crosswalk, which was clearly marked on the road. They’re removing that crosswalk but people are still going to cross there.”