Council moving forward to improve existing audible pedestrian traffic signal in Mount Forest

KENILWORTH –  Wellington North is taking steps to improve audible pedestrian traffic signals in the township.

Specifically, the township is prepared to spend $20,000 to improve the signals at Main and Queen Streets in Mount Forest and $4,500 for minor repairs to other municipally-owned accessible signals.

On Nov. 18, director of operations Matthew Aston recommended council move ahead with recommendations made by Triton Engineering Services Limited.

Triton was hired to inspect the audible pedestrian signals currently owned and operated by the township, located at: George Street and Charles Street (25% owned by county); George Street and Frederick Street (25% owned by county); Main Street and Queen Street; Main Street and Wellington Street; and Main Street and Sligo Road (50% owned by the county).

Aston noted that “as discussed within Triton’s letter, without full reconstruction, achieving all the requirements of a fully accessible audible pedestrian signals is very difficult.”

He added the township has made its best effort to provide audible pedestrian signals and by implementing the recommendations can take another step forward to provide fully accessible pedestrian controls.

Aston stated the estimated cost to complete work recommended by Triton is $4,500 plus applicable taxes.

The township has received numerous complaints about the accessible pedestrian signals, specifically the audible push buttons not working correctly.

Aston noted push buttons at all five locations were upgraded a few years ago, but that was prior to new standards coming into effect.

Triton inspected the signals on Sept. 23.

“Our inspection found the accessible pedestrian signals to be in working order,” states the Triton report.

“Some buttons are stiff and seem to require holding for longer than three seconds in order to activate the audible and vibro-indicators.

“This was most prevalent at the Main Street and Wellington Street intersection in Mount Forest. It is possible that some users find the buttons awkward to operate, and intermittent malfunctions may be occurring, which would be difficult to detect during inspection/maintenance.”

Triton’s report states that while operating correctly, the existing installations do not meet current accessibility standards. However, achieving full compliance is difficult without full intersection reconstruction, which the municipality is not required to complete.

Some recommended improvements to improve the operation of the signals include replacing  audible pedestrian push-buttons at the other intersections when upgrades are scheduled, or as budget permits. The estimated cost per intersection to upgrade the accessible push buttons is $20,000, provided the existing pole locations are used.

Councillor Steve McCabe noted the signals were installed just four years ago. He questioned the township paying the full amount now and then being required to rebuild in a few years.

Aston agreed, “there seems to be a moving post as it relates to accessibility standards as new technologies are developed.”

He mentioned a planned Dec. 5 meeting of the county’s accessibility committee, which has forwarded a different standard that includes the use of a smartphone app.

“I think it would be wise not to proceed with this until Wellington County voices its take on that,” Aston said, noting there is always some risk in being first to implement new technologies.

Lennox suggested the township “proceed with what we think is practical.”

CAO Mike Givens stressed the signals are functioning, “but we want to make them as user-friendly as possible, based on current technology.”

Lennox said “we are trying to minimize the aspects which are not satisfactory.”