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Woolwich to lobby region for pedestrian crosswalk at St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market

Woolwich will have to get political if it wants a pedestrian crosswalk at the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market.

Region of Waterloo staff remains the biggest hurdle to a plan to boost safety at that location, so convincing regional councillors to remove the roadblocks is the top priority, suggests Dan Kennaley, Woolwich’s director of engineering and planning.

The sight of pedestrians fanning out across Farmers’ Market and Benjamin roads on market days – Thursdays and Saturdays, with Tuesdays added in the summer – has been a longstanding safety concern. A new report presented Tuesday night to township council looked at a variety of options for dealing with the situation, recommending the installation of a pedestrian-controlled crosswalk at the intersection of the two roads leading into the market.

That idea is opposed by regional planners, who say such a crossing would be too close to the intersection of Farmers’ Market Road and Weber Street, likely to have a negative impact on traffic flows.

As the region needs to approve and arrange for the installation of the crosswalk, convincing regional councillors of the benefits is the key to getting it built, said Kennaley.

The plan was approved by Woolwich councillors meeting Tuesday night. Now the real work of convincing their regional counterparts begins.

“I think it is important we make it as safe as we can for people who are walking,” said Coun. Murray Martin in support of the crosswalk.

Safety is a key driver of the process, said acting manager of engineering Jared Puppe in an earlier interview.

Pedestrian well-being and operational impacts on the adjacent roads were the highest priority in looking at solutions to the problem. With the bill – currently estimated at $60,000 to $80,000 – being covered by SmartCentres, the company that runs the nearby retail centre, cost was less of an issue.

“We wanted to go with the best solution without cost being part of it,” said Puppe.

Now, the job is to convince enough people at the region to back the crosswalk project.

“Regional staff aren’t onboard, but we need to show them this is a unique situation that requires a unique solution.”

The project provides a good safety bang for the buck, noted Kennaley – “It’s a cost-effective way to address the issue.”

Such are the safety concerns that the township will be asking the market operator to provide police on the scene to control traffic and ensure pedestrians cross safely until a crosswalk is installed

The proposed crosswalk would include pedestrian-activated traffic signals – red, green and yellow – that would provide gaps to allow batches of people on foot to access the site. To keep traffic moving, the controls would be timed so that pedestrians don’t simply takeover the intersection, Puppe explained.

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