Burnaby responds to crossing guard's concerns with markings

After Burnaby crossing guard Kelly Engleson raised the alarm over a near-tragic incident involving a little girl and a semi truck, the city has responded with pavement markings.

Last November, Engleson witnessed an incident where a semi truck heading south on Douglas Road was turning right onto Sprott Street, mounted the sidewalk at the northwest corner of the intersection and almost struck an elementary school student.

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"If it was any other little girl in the school, she would've been killed," Engleson told the NOW at the time. "She's in Grade 3. I trained her from the beginning, and she listens."

The traffic and safety committee received Engleson's letter on the incident, urging for action to make the street safer, and referred it to staff for a report on Jan. 7.

In the report, staff has recommended that a painted median be installed along Sprott Street west of Douglas Road to shift the eastbound traffic lanes southward by about 1.5 metres. Council approved the change at its March 10 meeting.

"This painted median would provide more space for southbound trucks turning right onto Sprott and help to prevent trucks from mounting the sidewalk at the northwest corner of the intersection," Leon Gous, director of engineering, said in his report to council. "The paint markings can be completed within existing operating budgets later this year when the weather permits."

Staff reviewed the site and found most trucks should be able to make the turn without mounting the sidewalks, but for very large trucks it's a tight turn. It happens if the truck driver does not turn wide enough, "despite the space available."

Gous said staff reviewed several other options to "improve the situation."

"Removal of truck routes and restricting truck turns was considered problematic due to the fact that there would likely be significant violations in the short term and the need for continual enforcement given the fact that existing truck routes have been well established," he said. "As well, trucks are permitted to use non-truck routes if it is the shortest path between their destination and a truck route."

The Douglas and Sprott intersection is frequently used by both Douglas Road Elementary School children and trucks. Both roads are designated truck routes and many trucks use the intersection to access Highway 1, industrial areas and Canada Way, which is why there's a crossing guard at the site when school is in session.

According to Engleson, who has been the guard there for the last eight years, it's one of the most dangerous intersections for students in the city.

Gous said widening the sidewalk at the northwest corner of the intersection is impossible because it's currently built right up to the city's property line, and the existing retaining wall would be too expensive.

"The installation of barriers or pipe rails along the edge of the curb is also not recommended because it would pose a barrier to pedestrians accessing the intersection," he said. "Warning signs were felt to be ineffective and of little value to commercial truck drivers who are usually aware of the need to turn wide at most intersections."

City staff will send a copy of the report to Engleson and the Burnaby school district office. The report will also be sent to nearby driving schools that train truck drivers.

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