CORNER BROOK — After nearly 61 years of living in Corner Brook, Ford Neal can no longer have the mail delivered to his house.
As of last week, Ford is one of 17 customers along a stretch of West Valley Road where Canada Post has decided to no longer make mail deliveries directly to the mailbox.
John Caines, a spokesperson for the Crown corporation, said the decision was made for safety reasons after a letter carrier reported nearly being struck by a passing vehicle on two occasions in late 2012. Those complaints triggered an investigation into letter carrier safety on the stretch of road heavily used to access Western Memorial Regional Hospital and the downtown area.
“It was determined that, with the amount of traffic on that section of road and the speed limit, it was unsafe to deliver mail on foot,” said Caines.
The decision had nothing to do with winter conditions, according to Caines, and will be in effect year round. The homes affected are the even-numbered residences from 74 to 106 West Valley Rd.
The corporation said it will be installing a community mailbox around 300 metres up the street from the last affected household so residents can continue to receive their daily mail. Homeowners have also been given an option to get a free post office box at the Canada Post depot if they would like one.
Neal, who will soon turn 90 years old, said he will not be accepting the free box because that will essentially amount to agreeing with the decision.
“I know it’s a heavy traffic area, there’s no doubt about that,” said Neal. “When (the City of Corner Brook) did the road years ago, they should have put in sidewalks, but they didn’t.”
Until the community boxes are installed, Neal and his neighbours will have to go to the Canada Post depot on Maple Valley Road during business hours to get their mail.
Neal doesn’t foresee walking up the busy street to the community box once it’s set up.
“If (the carriers) can’t do it, then why should I have to in all sorts of weather?” he asked. “It’s an inconvenience and an expense (to have to go to the depot).”
Neal’s son Chris has set about trying to get the impacted neighbours to collectively voice their concern to the City of Corner Brook. He hopes to present a letter to city council, copied to Canada Post and area MP Gerry Byrne, asking that the city reduce the speed limit on that section of West Valley Road until sidewalks can be installed there.
“The city has to do one thing or the other to make it safe,” said the younger Neal, noting there is also a public transit bus stop along the route in question.
Heather Noseworthy, president of Local 039 of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, has talked to residents all along the stretch and heard their concerns regarding both safety and the discontinuation of the regular postal service.
“There are a lot of older residents in that area,” said Noseworthy. “They want something done about what’s going on in front of their homes. There are people nearly getting hit and they find it difficult accessing their driveways.”
Corner Brook Mayor Neville Greeley said the municipality has not been told installing sidewalks will lead to a reinstatement of the service. He wondered why this section of road is only now being deemed a hazard after having door-to-door mail delivery for as long as the service has been in Corner Brook.
Nonetheless, the city will assess the area and, if sidewalks can be installed, such a project will undergo the same scrutiny as any other item in the budgetary and capital works priority processes.
Greeley figured such a project might cost $200,000 or more.
“You just don’t come up with that amount of money without taking it from somewhere else,” said the mayor. “It would be pointless for us to spend a couple hundred thousand dollars if they had no intention of bringing this service back.
“I think there are other issues at play here, but that’s just me.”
The city was not given any details of the incidents involving the Canada Post employee who was nearly struck by passing vehicles on two occasions.
The mayor also doesn’t think reducing the speed limit along one of the main thoroughfares in the city is the proper response. He said if vehicular traffic and pedestrian traffic follow the basic rules of the road, then there shouldn’t be a problem.
“The solution doesn’t always rest with the city,” said Greeley.
There are other busy streets, such as Brookfield Avenue, that also do not have sidewalks.
Caines said no other areas of Corner Brook have been identified as a hazard because of high traffic volume and lack of sidewalks.