Crosswalk for new Hanwell school would be 'too dangerous,' says mayor

Hanwell Park Academy is a new kindergarten-to-Grade-8 school southwest of Fredericton. (Hanwell Park Academy/Facebook - image credit)
Hanwell Park Academy is a new kindergarten-to-Grade-8 school southwest of Fredericton. (Hanwell Park Academy/Facebook - image credit)

Most students can't walk to Hanwell Park Academy, despite living nearby.

The Hanwell Action Committee is a local community group and wants to see that change. It's calling on local leaders to get students off buses and onto trails.

The new kindergarten to Grade 8 school outside of Fredericton opened its doors to students for the first time this September. According to its website, enrolment sits at around 500.

The school is off of Route 640 which Bernadine Boucher, a member of the Hanwell Action Committee, acknowledges it's a busy road and dangerous to cross.

"You are taking your chances when you cross there," she told Information Morning Fredericton. "It's an accident waiting to happen."

The action group is proposing potential solutions like a permanent reduced speed zone of 50 km/h, a safe well- illuminated crosswalk, and footpaths leading to the school.

Currently, the speed limit is 80 km/h in front of the school but drops to 50 when school is in session.

Boucher said students are being put on buses to cross the road safely.

According to the province's website, children enrolled in public schools can ride the school bus if they live more than 2.4 kilometres from the school or more than 1.5 kilometres on side roads. Special needs students may have specific transportation arrangements.

Boucher said many students being bused are within that radius. For a number of students, she said it takes longer to bus to school than it does to walk or cycle.

"A lot of the children are getting on from Somerset around 7:09. It takes them until almost 8 o'clock to get there by bus. Or it's about a 10 minute walk or five minute cycle. It's quite a significant difference," she said.

Hanwell Mayor Dave Morrison said the idea of a crosswalk isn't feasible at this time.

"I believe it's just that it would be too dangerous to have crosswalks," he said.

Morrison said the Department of Transportation won't consider installing one until the speed limit is permanently lowered.

"They're planning on doing a traffic study later on this month when school kind of settles down. And of course, if the traffic study comes back for lowering the speed limit, then they will lower the speed limit and eventually we will get a crosswalk, I'm sure."

The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure said it is not responsible for installing a sidewalk along Route 640.

In an emailed statement, the department said an evaluation was done, but the project did not meet provincial criteria.

"The responsibility rests with the local government," wrote department spokesperson Alycia Bartlett.

Citing amendments to the province's Highway Act, Bartlett said the province may construct and maintain a provincial-municipal highway, but it isn't responsible for sidewalks or other things like lighting, traffic signals and tree planting.

Submitted by Dave Morrison
Submitted by Dave Morrison

The Hanwell Rural Community Council discussed the accessibility issue when it met in July. In a 4-3 vote, a motion was defeated to request permission from the province to build a 2.5 metre-wide trail from Nature Park Drive to the sidewalk of the bus entrance of the school. According to meeting minutes, all costs incurred for the project would be paid for by the community, up to a maximum of $400,000.

Morrison cast the deciding vote on the motion. He said the trail system wouldn't make sense without a crosswalk being installed first.

"People apparently didn't like having their kids walk to school. They wanted everybody to bus. Now it seems that the reverse is true," he said. "I'm sure when, you know, 35 below with the wind blowing and a foot of snow on the ground, the kids much sooner enjoy a bus ride."

Morrison said he's confident the province is doing all it can to make sure students get to school safely.