Work has begun on creating a lighted crosswalk across the Mackenzie Highway in front of the Hay River Regional Health Centre.
The lack of a suitable crosswalk at that location on the highway has been a controversial matter, making its way to town council and even to the legislative assembly.
A crew painted the crosswalk on June 22, but that is just part of the project.
In response to written questions from The Hub, Greg Hanna, a communications co-ordinator with the Department of Infrastructure in Yellowknife, said work started more than two weeks ago with the ordering of parts, such as pre-cast concrete pole bases, traffic signal poles, lights, panels and controls.
Hanna said it is expected the project will be completed by July 7.
“There will be two traffic signal poles with two supporting arms and a pedestrian-activated crosswalk lighting system,” he said. “When a pedestrian presses the ‘crossing request button,’ the lights (four in each direction) will activate. There are also street lights installed overhead on a second, higher supporting arm.”
A left-turn lane into the hospital has also been created for northbound traffic on the Mackenzie Highway.
Southbound traffic will have one lane that will allow for right turns into the hospital, left turns to a service road and for travelling straight south.
“The crosswalk will provide access for pedestrians to cross the highway at a designated location,” said Hanna. “Crosswalks allow for the best use of signs, lights, signals and line of sight to give traffic and pedestrians the advance warning essential for safety.”
Solar-powered warning signs had previously been set up in the area to warn motorists of pedestrians.
The work on the crosswalk is being done by Carter Industries, Mackenzie Electric, and R&N Line Painting.
Mayor Brad Mapes said he is happy to see the work on the crosswalk, and he expects it will increase safety for pedestrians crossing the Mackenzie Highway.
“It’s a major concern for the town that we had a lot of people coming across,” he said.
Mapes added the town will now work with the Hay River Regional Health Centre and the Department of Infrastructure to figure out how to possibly build a sidewalk from the highway into the hospital.
Once people use the new crosswalk, they still have to walk along the access road to the hospital, including having to cross railway tracks, the mayor said.
A public tender call for pedestrian-activated crossing lights on the Mackenzie Highway in the fall of last year was cancelled after the one submission received was above the estimated cost for the work.
In February, Hay River North MLA R.J. Simpson raised the crosswalk issue in the legislative assembly.
Simpson called the situation a serious public safety concern and said he was “baffled” that a hospital was built without being safely accessible by foot.
The new crosswalk will likely lead to changes on the Super A service road across the Mackenzie Highway from the health centre.
Safety concerns were raised at town council last year about pedestrians on that service road.
Mapes said the town was waiting to see what happened with the crosswalk first before changing the existing walkway on the service road or possibly building a sidewalk.
“We’re probably going to have to look at something over the summer,” he said, adding no decision has yet been made.
Last fall, town council discussed building a 2.5-metre addition on the west side of the Super A service road to deal with what it described as a dangerous situation.
The walking lane on the service road is indicated by a line on the side of the pavement.
However, due to many vehicles accessing businesses on the east side of the road – including backing in and out over the walking lane – council is concerned about pedestrian safety.