Shoulder to be widened on Willis Road

City council approved a $260,000 budget to improve pedestrian safety.

Pedestrian safety improvements are coming to Willis Road after council approved spending more than $200,000 to widen the shoulder.

At its Monday meeting, council agreed to spend $262,931 to widen about 600 metres of south-side shoulder, from Carolyn Road to Petersen.

Drew Hadfield, the city’s transportation manager, told council the shoulder is expected to be widened about two metres which will require the city to fill in the ditch and provide fish habitat in the area.

Hadfield added that the work will involve paving.

“The shoulder will be an asphalt shoulder,” Hadfield said. “It will be a hard surface area.”

He noted that the cost of the project – which exceeds the $100,000 budget council set aside last year for Willis improvements – is because of the fish habitat work required of the city.

Fish habitat is planned to be maintained to nearby Fisher Creek and in the future, improvements are expected to be undertaken downstream of the creek to enhance spawning opportunities.

The project, which Hadfield said is intended to “provide a pedestrian corridor along Willis to ensure safe passageway for both pedestrians and cyclists along this corridor” has been a long time coming for council.

It had been a topic of discussion for years but council had always held off as city staff have said that long-term solutions would cost in the millions of dollars.

But last December, council elected to go with a cheaper, short-term solution after a young man was hit by a vehicle while walking down the side of the road and fell into a ditch.

Councillor Ron Kerr acknowledged during Monday night’s council meeting that the pedestrian struck was in attendance, intently listening to council’s discussion.

“I just want to note that Nicolas Benner, the young man who got knocked into the ditch last year, is in the audience and I’m sure waiting anxiously to see if this passes,” Kerr said.

In the end, council approved awarding the project to Wacor Holdings Ltd.

Mayor Andy Adams said there may still be more to come.

He said council is looking forward to potentially continuing widening the shoulder beyond Carolyn Road to Nikola where Palmer Place is located.

For years, residents at Palmer Place – which houses disabled and at-risk persons who use Willis to walk down to the bus stop on Petersen Road – have been asking for pedestrian improvements along Willis.

Adams said widening the shoulder up to at least Nikola Road “would be the next logical step.”

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