Willis improvements gain support

The We Wai Kai First Nation has added its voice to the crusade to install a continuous pathway

Coun. Ron Kerr is garnering more support for his push to make Petersen and Willis roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

The We Wai Kai First Nation has added its voice to the crusade to install a continuous pathway along Willis and on Petersen from Willis to 14th Avenue.

“The Petersen Road, Willis Road situation is a danger to the public,” Brian Kelly, We Wai Kai administrator, wrote in a letter read aloud by Kerr at a council meeting Oct. 2. “The narrow streets and lack of sidewalks make this route very pedestrian unfriendly.”

Kerr has been trying, over the course of three council meetings dating back to September, to prod the city to get moving on improvements before winter sets in and conditions worsen.

Kelly agrees the city can’t put off improvements any longer.

“The fact that during bad weather the deep ditches fill with water and overflow onto the roadway makes it even more dangerous,” Kelly wrote. “The We Wai Kai is very supportive of making the safety of the citizens working and living in this area a priority.”

At last week’s council meeting, Michelle Albrecht, adult services program co-ordinator at Palmer Place on Nikola Road, recounted seeing two close calls on Willis Road, including one incident involving residents at Palmer Place.

“I observed two of our Palmer Place residents attempting to move out of the way of a large recreational vehicle, one of them slipping into a ditch,” she said. “This is just a small snapshot of a very dangerous situation, one that is only going to get worse as the days shorten and the weather turns. This is a tragedy waiting to happen.”

Kerr also has told council he sees pedestrians risk their lives on a daily basis, walking down the narrow, winding shoulders of Petersen Road.

Despite Kerr’s efforts, council insists there’s no money in the budget to move forward with improvements in 2012, and construction would have to wait until next spring.

That doesn’t sit well with Albrecht.

“City council has gone on record stating it would be fiscally irresponsible to invest dollars in upgrading Willis Road in the short term, when the five-year plan is to upgrade Willis Road to arterial standards,” Albrecht said. “Explain fiscal responsibility to the family of the person who is injured or worse, killed along Willis Road.

“It is morally irresponsible to continue to ignore the problem.”

At council’s last regular meeting, Oct. 16, council chose to further discuss the issue during capital planning sessions of the 2013 budget planning process.