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North end Halifax communities welcome road safety changes but wonder why it’s taken so long

Click to play video: 'New traffic safety measures for Halifax’s north end' New traffic safety measures for Halifax’s north end
WATCH: Some north end workers and residents are questioning why it's taken so many years for necessary roadway safety measures to be implemented. – Mar 11, 2021

Marcus James raised his family in Halifax’s North End and works at the Halifax North Memorial Library in the Uniacke Street area.

He says the community has been calling for safety improvements to their neighbourhood for years, including reduced speed limits for vehicles.

That’s why he says he’s questioning what finally changed in the eyes of the municipality to move ahead with speed limit reductions for the Uniacke Street area.

“The fact that they’re reducing it is something that community has been asking for for a very, very long time. I’m talking as far back as the ’80s,” James said.

Read more: Speed limits reduced in north-end Halifax neighbourhood to 40 km/h

Uniacke Square area is where displaced residents of Africville were told to live by the City of Halifax government in the 1960s, after the city bulldozed their homes to make way for ‘urban renewal.’

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In recent years, new development has swept through the Gottingen Street and north end Halifax area.

James says there was a time when residents of Uniacke Square had to fight for sidewalks to be installed. He wonders what’s changed for these new speed limit reductions to finally be implemented.

“This all ties into HRM wanting to do a better job in working with community, engaging community. So, if none of that took place, it’s a real missed opportunity,” he says.

Area councillor Lindell Smith wrote in an email that the speed limit change is two-fold.

He says the speed limit change was informed by years of petitions and requests from residents, but ultimately the city had to wait for the province to grant the municipality permission to do so.

“The City has been advocating for the lowering of speed limits for many years, and the Province gave us the option to make this request street by street and by request only,” Smith wrote.

The city says the reduced speed limit in the Uniacke Street neighbourhood is part of council’s focus on improving community safety. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax

Travelling north along Barringston Street in another north end neighbourhood is the Wee Care Developmental Centre.

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The non-profit centre has provided child care to families of children with special needs since the 1970s.

Read more: Childcare centre in Halifax’s north end raise safety concerns over lack of marked crosswalk

Wee Care staff regularly take children with mobility issues out on outings that involve taking transit but say they continually encounter safety hazards trying to cross Barrington Street.

“I’m an adult and I don’t feel safe. So, I can only imagine the fear that a child may face,” said Tammy Zwicker-Fitzpatrick, an early childhood educator at Wee Care Developmental Centre.

Tammy Zwicker-Fitzpatrick says staff at the Wee Care Developmental Centre have long called for the installation of a marked crosswalk at Young Street and Barrington Street. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax

Zwicker-Fitzpatrick says Wee Care staff have been calling on the city to install a marked crosswalk at Young and Barrington streets but were repeatedly told there wasn’t enough pedestrian crossing volume for it to be done.

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That’s changed with the recently approved capital project plan by Regional Council.

A marked crosswalk with flashing lights will now be installed at the location as part of the 2021/2022 capital project plan.

Zwicker-Fitzpatrick welcomes the news but also questions why it’s taken so long.

“It will give us educators a sense of safety and to be finally heard as an early childhood educator, by the government, because we do matter and the children matter,” Zwicker-Fitzpatrick said.

The city says the plan is to have the crosswalk installed during the 2021 construction season.

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