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Countdown clock coming to intersection where girl was hit

City hall acting after public meetings on improving safety

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In the wake of a girl being seriously injured, and two subsequent public meetings, changes to improve pedestrian safety at the intersection of Portage Avenue and Ferry Road are advancing through city hall.

Last November, an 11-year-old student from George Waters Middle School had not finished crossing Portage at Ferry when the light changed to green for waiting traffic. She ran out from behind that traffic and was struck by a westbound pickup truck in the curb lane.

A motion recommending measures to improve safety at the intersection was introduced by Coun. Scott Fielding (St. James-Brooklands) and passed at an April 9 Assiniboia community committee meeting. From there it heads to public works, which will report back to committee by June.

Among the recommendations, which Fielding said emerged from joint public meetings with the school division in response to last November’s accident, is a countdown clock for pedestrians.

"The big thing is this countdown clock because it shows the amount of time people have to get across the street," Fielding said, "for sure we’re going to do the countdown clock."

St. James-Assiniboia School Division Superintendent Ron Weston said the intersection is a dangerous one for students at the middle school and neighbouring St. James Collegiate, located on the intersection’s southwest corner.

"We had a student hit there last year, but we’ve had a number of close calls at that site… over the last couple of years we’ve had a couple of near-misses," he said.

Weston said all of the recommendations in Fielding’s motion came from two community meetings held in January and February, each attended by about 60 people.

Schools engage in a "constant ongoing campaign" to warn students about traffic signals and safety, Weston said, but more is required.

"Unfortunately this occurs, even close calls, and gets everybody’s attention for a little while. But kids will be kids. You have to put in as many preventative measures as you can."

Other recommendations being considered for the intersection include planters/guard rails along the median or Portage sidewalk to prevent jaywalking, and making it illegal to turn right on a red light from Portage during peak hours.

Fielding said the installation of red light cameras at the intersection was also suggested.

Though not convinced the cameras contribute to intersection safety, he said he forwarded the idea to the police.

"The local politician has no say in (red light cameras), it’s Winnipeg police that makes those decisions."

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