By Galen Simmons, Stratford Beacon Herald
Thursday, July 20, 2017
According to St. Marys director of public works, Jed Kelly, the installation of pedestrian-activated signalized crossings at the town’s three downtown intersections have improved both pedestrian safety and traffic flow.
St. Marys council originally voted to change the signals from automated to pedestrian-activated based on recommendations from a downtown traffic study conducted in 2015, prior to the town’s streetscape reconstruction last summer.
“We redid the data in 2017 just to confirm the results. The recommendation that we did get back from the traffic consultant was that we should look at implementing full activation with the pedestrian signals so that we can time traffic separately from vehicular traffic,” Kelly said.
“Basically, if you push the button you get a long time to cross (Queen Street East) — you get a longer green.”
With the installation of the pedestrian-activated signals, those travelling on Water Street, Wellington Street or Church Street who are looking to cross Queen Street East on foot will have 25 seconds to cross, whereas when the pedestrian signals have not been activated, vehicles travelling through those intersections have a seven-second green light.
“The primary focus in the downtown is to keep the priority for east/west traffic. Because we’re a small town, Queen Street is the only reliable, continuous east/west corridor through town, so we do get a lot of traffic on Queen,” Kelly said.
Combined, the cost for the installation of all three pedestrian-activated signals was roughly $245,000, or $82,000 each. In addition to the signals themselves, that cost included all underground infrastructure, replacement of the control cabinets, the installation of additional posts, and the required electrical engineering work.
As the general population gets older, Kelly said many cities and towns are transitioning to the pedestrian-activated signals. In St. Marys, those with visual impairments can hold the crossing button down until they and the corresponding signals on the other side of the intersection begin to chirp, effectively guiding that person safely across Queen Street.
“They actually adjust themselves for ambient noise, so in the middle of the night they’re not going to be as loud as during the day when there’s lots of traffic,” Kelly said.
With the new crossing signals, all three of St. Marys’ downtown intersections are compliant with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).
“We’re very progressive around the accessibility and public infrastructure when we do things,” Kelly said.
The signals will also allow the town to more accurately monitor and adjust the timing of the downtown traffic lights at all three intersections, giving public works staff the ability to adapt the traffic lights to higher or lower volumes of vehicular and pedestrian traffic.