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Antigonish County calls for immediate changes to highway intersection

Safety at the Beech Hill/Trunk 4 intersection remains a concern for Municipality of the County of Antigonish council. Richard MacKenzie
Safety at the Beech Hill/Trunk 4 intersection remains a concern for Municipality of the County of Antigonish council, one magnified in the past week after two accidents, one which claimed the life of a 41-year-old man from Toronto.

Council holds emergency meeting Monday evening

ANTIGONISH, N.S. —

ANTIGONISH COUNTY - Municipality of the County of Antigonish council is continuing its push for the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (TIR) to take what it described as immediate action, when it comes to carrying out safety measures at the intersection of Trunk 4 and Beech Hill Road.

During an emergency meeting Monday evening, council passed a resolution calling for TIR to make the intersection a four-way stop, using portable signals for the interim; reduce the speed limit approaching the intersection with warning signage; and install rumble strips in all directions approaching the intersection. 

"I think it is clearly stated tonight the importance of making some immediate changes to the intersection," Warden Owen McCarron told reporters after the emergency meeting.

He said not only did council "clearly state" the need for change - with its resolution - but also local first responders and the community, at large.

"We have been saying it for a while," McCarron added.

As for where they came up with the suggested short-term changes, he said, as a community and as a council, "we talked to a lot of different people about possible remedies and just looking at other situations across the province and one was referenced tonight; rumble strips and how it impacted some change at the Cobequid Pass and then we talked about putting signalized lights there."

"Just a common sense approach to a situation that has been dangerous for far too long," McCarron added.

Council has also asked the province to accelerate the completion date for a permanent re-design at the intersection from 2021-22 to the spring of 2020.

"We want to work quickly, with the province, to see what remedy can happen immediately and then give way, maybe, to a longer-term solution," McCarron explained.

County officials brought their concerns to the province for the first time in September of 2017.

"I think the heightened response from the public and, obviously, the severity of the most recent accidents, unfortunately, helped drive the [increased push for change]," McCarron said.

"Certainly we hoped that it would be something that would be changed before this, but we need to work with the situation that we are currently in.

"And, it is our hope that transportation will take a very quick look at an immediate remedy and then, maybe, a longer-term view of what they want to see at that intersection going forward," he added.

McCarron agreed it has taken too much time for the province to take action.

"Again, it has really taken longer that anybody would hope and now we are at that critical point that change needs to happen and it needs to happen quickly," he said.

With the resolution council passed Monday evening, McCarron said they believe there are "some immediate things that can happen - really within a few days - if the province chooses to do so."

Those suggested measures will be passed along immediately to provincial TIR minister Lloyd Hines, who McCarron noted he spoke too earlier in the day.

"He understands [the concerns] very clearly and we said we were willing to work with his department to come up with some solutions and, we think, the resolution we presented tonight is certainly a first step to making it a safer intersection," the warden said.

When asked if Hines gave any indication that his department would be able 'to speed things up' or implement the county's proposed temporary measures, McCarron said the provincial minister indicated he would be meeting with his senior traffic officials today and that they "hopeful" that there would be some positive outcome.

"And, of course, that takes a bit of time and with our meeting coming so quickly we didn't get a response before the end of the day, but we are hopeful. And, with our TIR official (Basil Pitts) here tonight, we are hopeful the message that was conveyed by all the residents ... will help create some change quickly."

During the session, council heard presentations from Antigonish RCMP Sgt. Warren McBeath, Antigonish Volunteer Fire Depaertment Chief Allan Kennedy and Pitts.

There were also passionate - and, at times, emotional remarks from other first responders and residents, who have had unforgettable experiences at the intersection.

The common theme throughout the almost one-hour meeting - the need for immediate change.

That position was magnified in the past week after two accidents at the intersection - one on Dec. 2 and the second on Dec. 7. There were injuries in both cases, with the first crash claiming the life of a 41-year-old man from Toronto.

"We just recognized that we need to actually amplify the concern and get that message clearly through. Our community has spoken out - we got many calls and emails over the course of the weekend - about the necessity to create the change and help create the change, and that's why we called this special meeting of council tonight."


 

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