Safety concerns persist at "unsafe" Blyth intersection
BY DENNY SCOTT
While several sections of sidewalk have been installed by North Huron, as requested by the Blyth Business Improvement Area (BIA), some of the other safety requests just can’t be met, according to BIA Chair David Sparling.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the BIA had presented an extensive list of recommended changes to foster safer transport and parking throughout the community. The changes included sidewalks, as well as addressing ongoing concern at the intersection of Blyth and London Roads at the south end of the community.
During the BIA’s first in-person meeting since the COVID-19 pandemic started, Sparling explained that several sections of sidewalk had been completed, helping to link the community together.
New sidewalks had been installed on Gypsy Lane from King Street south to Wellington Street, with other sections to follow. The request for those sidewalks aimed to connect the Blyth and District Community Centre and the Blyth Lions Park to the main street, the former to provide parking for the downtown core and the latter to allow families to make their way to the park safely.
However, a request had been made for sidewalks to go further south on Gypsy Lane, Sparling explained, and that couldn’t happen.
“Municipal drains for Gypsy Lane are on the boulevard, not under the street,” he said. “The sidewalk would cross right across the drains. For safety, and practicality, the sidewalk on Gypsy north to King Street [from County Road 25] cannot go in.”
Sparling said it was disappointing, but added that North Huron staff, including retired Director of Public Works and Facilities Sean McGhee, had done great things in trying to make the sidewalks happen.
Sparling also said that McGhee’s replacement, Director of Public Works Jamie McCarthy, had been invited to the BIA’s November meeting to continue to discuss the project.
Later, as part of his report to the BIA from North Huron Council, Councillor Kevin Falconer said that a sidewalk extension on London Road to the southern extremes of the village was also on hold, as it could be a waste of tax dollars. The sidewalk was one of many requested by the BIA.
Falconer said that any work done could be futile as it may need to be ripped up if Huron County Council approves any actions at the collision-prone intersection of Blyth and London Roads. Unfortunately, he said any changes there were unlikely.
“Huron County has not moved an inch on what they’re going to do with that corner,” he said. “They have no plans for the next couple of years.”
He said, in his opinion, it’s just a matter of time before Huron County Council is forced to act as the result of a significant collision at the corner.
Having a sidewalk go to the south end of the village is part of North Huron’s plan, he said, however without Huron County moving on the intersection, any work North Huron does could be undone.
As part of the discussion about the sidewalk, the dangers of the intersection at Blyth and London Roads were also discussed by the BIA at length.
Irene Kellins of Stitches with a Twist, commenting on a “Letter to the Editor” in The Citizen from Brenda Burkholder, said she wondered what was needed at the intersection. In the letter, Burkholder claimed that no changes were needed at the intersection and, instead, control measures needed to be implemented to slow down speeding vehicles approaching the corner.
Sparling said that, in reviewing many of the collisions, he didn’t believe that it was just a matter of speed, but of visibility. He said there are consistent issues with sightlines when looking at the collisions.
He also said that watching pedestrians try to navigate the intersection is distressing, and that the viability of the employees and businesses in that part of the village are tied to making the intersection safer for not just traffic, but pedestrians as well.
“You can have cars slow down all you want, it’s still a miserable, unsafe intersection,” he said.
Sparling went on to say that the intersection is a detriment to employers at the south end of the community trying to recruit people and attract customers as it makes walking to the businesses a dangerous proposition.
Rev. JoAnn Todd, who represents the local clergy on the BIA, said something needs to be done.
“The bottom line is, what is the right thing to do?” she asked. “There’s fighting over jurisdiction or money and it just seems wrong. The right thing to do is to make that corner safe, whether you’re a pedestrian from Central Huron, North Huron or Morris-Turnberry.”
She said the politicians seem to have lost track of that primary underpinning of doing what’s right throughout all these debates.
Falconer said collisions at the corner have been going on for decades and the reality is that the intersection isn’t high on Huron County’s list.
“They have no ambition,” he said. “It’s been asked and asked and asked and they’ve studied it to death.”
Vice-Chair Shane Yerema of Hotel Lux said that the county should be made aware of the legal situation it may find itself in if there is a fatality at the corner. He told a story about a dangerous intersection in his home community in which the government responsible for the site was told that every person involved in an accident there would be told that the government was aware of the danger and to let the court system figure it out. He said the result was that traffic control methods were installed rather quickly.
Sparling said that it’s only a matter of time before there’s a fatality at the intersection or there’s another patient on an ORNGE air ambulance if nothing is done. He said the BIA would keep raising the pedestrian concern, but admitted he feels it’s ridiculous that the BIA needs to continue to do so.
The BIA took no action as a result of the discussions.