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MLA fumes over road safety
Cory Vanthuyne calls for lines to be painted on Highway 4 to make stretch safer for pedestrians and cyclists

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Yellowknife MLA became visibly frustrated at the legislative assembly on Monday over what he says is the government's lax attitude on highway safety.

NNSL photo/graphic

A pedestrian walks on to a newly chipsealed section of Highway 4 at the edge of the city yesterday. Yellowknife North MLA Cory Vanthuyne demanded to know why the Department of Transportation has yet to paint white lines separating the shoulder from the roadway. He said he has heard from concerned residents who say that stretch of road is not safe for pedestrians or cyclists. - John McFadden/NNSL photo

Yellowknife North MLA Cory Vanthuyne was referring specifically to Highway 4 between 49 Avenue and Niven Gate. He said that stretch of highway is an accident just waiting to happen, particularly now with two hotels filled with tourists on one side of the road and the Northern Frontier Visitors Centre and legislative assembly on the other.

Vanthuyne, along with the other regular MLAs and cabinet, are currently working on the 2017-18 capital budget and he wants to see road paint and a crosswalk for that newly chipsealed stretch included in it.

He said he continues to hear from concerned citizens who are worried about their safety. He pointed out that pedestrians, including parents pushing strollers, use that stretch to get to the Niven Lake subdivision as well as the legislative assembly.

The speed limit along this part of Highway 4 is 45 kilometres an hour.

Vanthuyne asked Transportation Minister Wally Schumann exactly what the government is waiting for in order to start making the road safer.

"This is not the city's stretch of road," Vanthuyne told Schumann. "This is not the hotel's responsibility ... The bottom line is this stretch of road is under the ownership, operation, and maintenance of the Department of Transportation."

Schumann responded by saying he is quite familiar with that stretch of road and invited all Yellowknife MLAs to the next meeting on the issue between territorial government officials and the city.

"It is a commonly used area," he said. "As I walk it every day when I come to work, I have crossed the highway and I come up the side of the highway and then take the secondary road to the legislative assembly."

He told Vanthuyne his department has met with the city and as well as Niven Lake community groups.

Vanthuyne countered with the fact that he does not think the meetings have been productive and suggested the time for talking about painting lines on the road is over.

"When are we going to stop the meetings and pushing this aside, and when are we going to start to invest in public safety?" Vanthuyne asked Schumann. "Will the minister commit his department to this capital budget in putting in a delineated line where the public can walk safely and ride safely from Niven Gate into town?"

Schumann said if the weather permits, lines will be painted between the shoulder and the road itself in the coming weeks. However, he would not commit to putting a crosswalk in until a traffic study is done and the city, as well as community groups in the area, are engaged.

"We have to include everybody," he said. "We're not going to exclude everybody. We have to involve everybody in this process and make sure it's done in a fair and equitable manner and everyone has an opportunity to have input."

Mayor Mark Heyck said he agrees with Vanthuyne that safety improvements to that stretch of road need to be done as soon as possible and he does not know what is stopping the GNWT from doing that.

"There is a safety issue there and we have been hearing that from residents of the Niven Lake subdivision for many years now," Heyck said. "Particularly with the development of the new Chateau Nova, with the visitor's centre, with the growth in traffic from the Explorer Hotel, with potential future developments in the area of the new hotel."

The mayor added there have been discussions over whether the city should take over responsibility for that stretch of road but said there has been little appetite for that from council.

Yesterday, a transportation department worker was making preliminary markings along that stretch of the road. The worker, who did not give his name, said he did not know when the lines were to be painted.

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