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Busy intersection near New Central Library to be reviewed by Calgary Transit

It could be one of the busiest intersections in Calgary, with cars, trains and pedestrians converging at the heart of the city, and next to the new Central Library.

And it’s an intersection that’s of concern to those who have tried to navigate the crossing towards the New Central Library in a wheelchair.

On a recent tour of the area, disabilities advocate Elaine Lee expressed her concern about the design of the intersection – with the proximity to trains but also of the one-way gates that prevent her from taking the shorter route to the library’s accessible entrance, on the east side of the building.

“A person with mobility challenges and no use of their arms would not be able to (open them),” said Lee.

The intersection will now be part of a larger review by city administration, which received direction from council to review safety at all the at-grade CTrain crossings in Calgary.

Chris Jordan, manager of service design at Calgary Transit, said that review will include looking at accessibility for people with disabilities.

“It’s a challenging intersection because it’s the point on the CTrain system with the most trains coming in and out – both on the blue line and the red line, and it happens to be the location of the new Central Library as well,” said Jordan.

He said the review of the intersection will be part of the overall review, which will take place over the next couple of months.

Jordan said the one-way gates that concern Lee and others have both pros and cons.

These one-way gates only swing towards pedestrians trying to cross the track, making it difficult for wheelchair users to open them and then cross. BRODIE THOMAS / LIVEWIRE

“The one-way gates are certainly not ideal for people who use a wheelchair, or people who are walking a bike, carrying groceries,” he said. “There’s a variety of reasons why they aren’t ideal.

“However they have many benefits as well. They’re a positive barrier for people with young children. They’re a positive barrier that require pedestrians to make eye contact with the operator of a train before proceeding, so there are positives to them.”

Jordan said it would be premature of him to foresee an outcome of the review, but he gave an indication of the review’s scope.

“We’ll be reviewing technologies that other agencies review,” he said. “We’ll be open to technologies that people have proposed for use to improve the safety, accessibility or effectiveness of our at-grade crossings, and then we’ll be reviewing priorities for retrofits knowing that we have funding constraints.

Tony Flores, the province’s disabilities advocate, said the issue of the one-way gates was brought to his attention by a private citizen. He said his position is that there needs to be safety and accessibility for all citizens.

“I understand because it has been brought up to the City of Calgary’s attention that it’s being investigated now and it’s not just that crossing at the library, it’s all Calgary,” said Flores.

“Kudos to the City of Calgary for taking the initiative to investigate this. I think we need to respect the due process of what they’re doing.”

Jordan noted that although the gates remain for now, there are accessible crossings on the north side of 7 Avenue.