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Azilda community keeps the pressure on for sidewalks

Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland has pledged to request that city administrators pursue alternative solutions in Azilda’s sidewalk versus paved shoulders debate
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Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland is seen speaking at a community meeting in Azilda in late March, the first of two such public meetings to address the community’s request for a sidewalk expansion down the eastern leg of Notre Dame Street to the Tim Hortons.

With Azilda community members keeping the pressure on for new sidewalks along the eastern leg of Notre Dame Street, the city is poised to look at alternatives.

Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland plans on asking for city administration to look into it in a motion to be presented at the June 20 operations committee meeting, 

This is good news, community advocate Reina Bélanger said.

“We worked really hard for that,” she said, adding that during an April 29 community meeting, McCausland was presented with a 1,400-name petition requesting a sidewalk expansion.

“I wanted to go house to house to find out what the people really wanted, and 99.9 per cent were all for sidewalks; no paved shoulders,” she said. “With paved shoulders, there’s only a white line separating you from the car.”

At issue is a longstanding concern among area residents regarding safety along a busy stretch of Notre Dame Street’s eastern leg in Azilda, which leads up to the Tim Hortons.

Although it’s a major active transportation route in the community, the road is without sidewalks for several blocks – a point various community members Sudbury.com connected with last year said needs to be fixed. 

The street, with its uneven shoulders, are bad enough during the summer, but become downright “treacherous” during the winter months, area resident Mark Streklasa told Sudbury.com at the time.

A petition with 672 names was presented to the City of Greater Sudbury, which prompted them to clarify that something would be done whenever that stretch of road is rehabilitated, which is expected to take place within the next few years.

Rather than sidewalks, which would add $2.5 million to the cost and require the installation of storm sewers that flow road salt directly into Whitewater Lake, city policy dictates that they would install two metres of paved shoulders on both sides of the road for active transportation. 

Community members opposed this solution and persisted in their request for sidewalks, including at a Community Action Network meeting in late March and an additional community meeting devoted solely to the issue on April 29, for which approximately 80 people showed up.

“There were a lot of people calling for sidewalks,” McCausland reflected recently. “What really came out of the meeting is that people need physical separation to feel comfortable and safe.”

Recognizing the merits and pitfalls of both approaches, McCausland said that his upcoming motion will request a business case for city administration to look at their options.

“There must be other options that don’t require those underground storm sewers that cost a fortune to put in and are really tough to maintain, and I’m just hoping that we’ll be able to find some other options that provide that key ingredient, which is that physical separation.”

Since the city’s policy pushes for wide shoulders to accommodate active transportation throughout the municipality, he said that this request could have much broader implications.

“It could end up being a pilot program to provide a more sustainable solution for the entire city.”

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.