It is now March, and the memorial to Surafiel Musse Tesfamariam is still visible, sagging in a puddle of melting snow. The intersection at Varennes and St Anne’s is as family and child friendly as an area as could be, with shopping, McDonald’s, a Dairy Queen, and Ecole Varennes is just a block away. It is hard to believe that just a few weeks ago, an eight year old boy was killed walking to school with his mother, crossing at an activated, operating crosswalk.
In February, twelve mothers from Varennes approached the Louis Riel School Board to raise their concerns about safety in the area near the school and to demand solutions and changes moving forward. Visibility and awareness are key to ensuring that pedestrians using these crosswalks are safe, and the crosswalk at Varennes has seen three fatalities when there should be none. Overgrown tree branches block the view of the crosswalk lights and one of the hanging light boxes is currently burnt out.
There have been a couple of critical accidents in St Vital over the past year on both St Mary’s and St Anne’s. The number of people commuting on these roads keeps increasing, which leads to traffic and safety issues. Councillor Mayes has committed to improving the safety at the intersection of Varennes and St Mary’s Rd and also hopes to address some of the larger infrastructure challenges facing the St Vital Ward.
City Councillor Brian Mayes’ proposal that a planned traffic study of St Anne’s be expanded to include the crosswalk at Varennes and St Anne’s was passed on March 5th. Some of the priorities to be addressed by the traffic study include evaluating the intersection itself for visibility or other safety concerns, assessing speed limits, and evaluating pedestrian safety, as well as infrastructure issues.
The City of Winnipeg has recently updated the Transportation Master Plan, which outlines the public works priorities for Winnipeg in a strategic plan. One of the recommendations identified in the 2017 Plan is to widen St Mary’s Rd, north of the St Anne’s intersection. Councillor Mayes also hopes to assess the intersection of Dakota St and St Mary’s Rd, up to Bishop Grandin, which sees very high volume at rush hour and also is home to shopping, schools, and daycares. An analysis of this area might result in some actionable solutions.
Along St Anne’s and St Mary’s, there are plenty of restaurants, parks, businesses, and new condos and the growth shows no signs of stopping. The infrastructure needs to keep pace to maintain healthy and happy communities, including the older neighbourhoods. In order to encourage residents to visit the area and enjoy themselves, it is clear that the traffic issues and safety concerns need to be resolved, so that the crosswalk at Varennes doesn’t ever have another memorial.
*This article originally printed March 14, 2018 in the Lance-Winnipeg Free Press, ©Canstar News.