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'Moment of change': New lights make it safer for residents along Highway 59

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A new set of traffic lights are now operational on Highway 59 which runs through Brokenhead Ojibway Nation.

The improvement comes months after a tragedy witnessed by several residents. Those residents now say the upgrades will make it safer for students to get to school.

"They had no capability to know when the cars were going to slow down or come faster," said Mary Chartrand, who is a teacher in the area.

The new lights include a pedestrian crossing signal and countdown clock.

The decision to install the lights comes after a death last spring.

"I did see what happened and it was a tragedy," said Chartrand.

In April, community members were gathering at the school for a Winnipeg Jets Whiteout event and Elder Larry Hodge was killed by a hit and run driver right in front of the school.

On Friday, community members gathered with band and provincial officials to turn the lights on for the first time.

"I'm sad and sorry for Mr. Hodge's family, but also, it's a marker for a moment of change for your community," said Lisa Naylor, the minister of transportation and infrastructure.

The lights weren't the only change as the speed limit was also lowered in the area from 80 km/h to 50 km/h.

"It's been a lot of years that we've had to watch our children who are gathered today go to school and have to dodge two-way traffic," said Chief Gordon Bluesky.

More safety upgrades could be coming to the area as well. The province said it has been in recent Brokenhead Ojibway Nation about twinning Highway 59 North based on conceptual plans from 2016.

The province said it's also committed to exploring new safe walking and bicycle paths for residents as part of the twinning plan.

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