By Richard Bell
HRM and the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (TIR) have spent tens of millions of dollars between the construction of the William Porter Connector Road, and Porters Lake Elementary School.
But somehow no one noticed that right across the road from the new school, at the intersection of the Connector with Inspiration Drive and Sandy Point Road, was a neighborhood with children who were supposed to walk to school (since they were less than 2.4 km from the school, and therefore not eligible for busing.)
Kids trying to cross run a gauntlet with cars whizzing by at the legal limit of 80km, and often more for those who think they are still out on the wide open spaces of the 107. There’s no caution signs, no yellow lights, no traffic signals. There’s not even a plain painted crosswalk to indicate to motorists that they should be looking out for children.
(The aerial photo shows the location of the intersection in a red box.)
“Does a child have to get hit by a car?” says Sarah Crawford, whose lives across the Connector from the school on Mannette Court. She’s been fighting since March, 2018 to get someone to authorize a crosswalk so that her daughter can get across the road safely. “There used to be a courtesy bus stop,” Crawford said, but that stopped. She wrote to
Elwin LeRoux, the Regional Executive Director of Education for the Halifax Regional Centre for Education for help. “He wrote back and said I should apply for courtesy busing,” Crawford said. “I’ve applied for courtesy busing for the last two years and been turned down both times. Every single day, my child is walking across the highway. Why not give me a bus until they figure it out?”
Another recent resident, Safia Pirbhai, saw the danger for all pedestrians trying to cross at this intersection, and started sending out requests to HRM and provincial officials and regulators. In November of 2018, Michael G Balsom, TIR area manager for Halifax East, sent Pirbhai an email saying that he had asked for “signalized intersection studies for the intersections in question,” and suggested that he would have the results fairly soon.
Balsom finally inform Pirbhai in an email on April 9, 2019, “At this time, based on traffic and pedestrian volumes, both intersections fall well under the threshold for signalization.”
Pirbhai refused to give up, and kept on calling local officials. On September 12, 2019, Robin Legge, the new principal at Porters Lake Elementary, sent out a letter in support of building a crosswalk. In her letter, in addition to ensuring the safety of school children, she noted that “…as PLES hosts a Metro Transit bus ‘park and ride’, it is possible a crosswalk at this location may be supportive to those commuting to and from work.”
On September 17, HRM Regional Council unanimously passed a motion from District 2 Councillor David Hendsbee requesting a staff report on establishing a crosswalk. (Crawford said that Hendsbee was in her daughter’s classroom in October, and when he asked the class what things they thought needed to be done, her daughter piped up,” My Mom says we deserve a crosswalk!”)
Hendsbee told the Cooperator that he will be meeting the Planning staff in early December to review the issue. “With the new school and the two new crosswalks at the exit there, the Connector isn’t the same road it was when it was built,” Hendsbee said. “The Province needs to re-evaluate its claim that the Connector is an extension of a 100-series highway. It’s not a limited access road. There should be a crosswalk, and some kind of warning light too when people want to cross.”