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With Plessis to close, city discouraging shortcut

Bernie Wolfe Community School making plans to deal with increased traffic

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Adult crossing guard Kathy Mitchell and Bernie Wolfe Community School principal Andy Zarrillo are shown with patrols Kadin Friesen, Daniel Peters, Lexie Desjarlais, and Nicole Harder at the corner of Bournais Drive and Rougeau Avenue near the school. The intersection is expected to see more traffic when the Plessis Road CN crossing closes for 18 months beginning in July in order to construct an underpass.

PHOTO BY DAN FALLOON Enlarge Image

Adult crossing guard Kathy Mitchell and Bernie Wolfe Community School principal Andy Zarrillo are shown with patrols Kadin Friesen, Daniel Peters, Lexie Desjarlais, and Nicole Harder at the corner of Bournais Drive and Rougeau Avenue near the school. The intersection is expected to see more traffic when the Plessis Road CN crossing closes for 18 months beginning in July in order to construct an underpass. Photo Store

With construction on the new Plessis Road underpass set to begin in the coming weeks, the city gave residents one last major update on project plans.

Lester Deane, manager of engineering in the city’s public works department, said the city was able to garner plenty of feedback from its first open house in Febraury. It presented some alterations to the $77 million plan at a second open house at Canad Inns Transcona on June 19.

"There haven’t been any major changes. We’re still going with the underpass concept," Deane said.

Deane said the most common concern was in regard to detours residents will have to use during construction, which will shut down the CN rail crossing on Plessis just north of Dugald Road from July 2013 to December 2014.

Deane said traffic will be discouraged from using Bournais Drive as a shortcut to cross the tracks, especially with Bernie Wolfe Community School located just north of the crossing.

Outside of Bournais, the closest rail crossings going across the rail line are at Lagimodiere Boulevard to the west and Ravenhurst Street to the east.

"Some of the things we’re looking at are putting in ‘local street only’ signs," he said. "If traffic is a problem, and speeding, we can look at enhancing enforcement.

"We’ll look at providing more resources to the school division with respect to safety people volunteering during the day."

Bernie Wolfe principal Andy Zarrillo said in an interview on June 20 the school currently has one adult crossing guard on duty, and is planning to increase that number to three during construction in addition to staff supervision.

Zarrillo said traffic is already congested before and after school, and the school, school division, city, and consulting firm have met to try to alleviate issues before they pop up.

"With the closure of Plessis, that traffic flow is going to increase," he said. "We’ve been trying to work closely in terms of planning for the fall and throughout the school year."

He said the city is monitoring traffic at the intersection of Bournais and Rougeau Avenue to get a handle on what the flow is now, and how it increases with construction. As well, he said the city is planning to bump up the intersection on its snow-clearing and sanding priority list in the winter.

Zarrillo said the school has been in contact with parents who will be affected by the Plessis closure through its school newsletter and its distribution list of family contacts.

"We’ll do our best to make sure kids and people are informed and safe," Zarrillo said.

At the open house, Lakeside Meadows resident Don Kupchuk said he often goes to see relatives in Dugald, and is excited to see the project progress.

"I can get caught by the same train twice, just going to visit family," he said.

However, he isn’t confident in the city’s plans for Bournais Drive.

"I can’t see a solution happening other than if everybody had a licence plate saying you don’t live in the neighbourhood," he said. "It’s going to be a shortcut to Dugald Road and it’s an alternative to usually get around the train."

Deane noted other comments came up in regard to expanding the active transportation options as part of the underpass. Initially, plans were to incorporate bike lanes on one side of the street, but now that designs are progressing, planners are confident they can fit lanes on both sides.

Deane said work on the rail detour should be starting "immediately."

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