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Plan for centre-line flex signs in city neighbourhoods hits bump in road

'When the majority of people are adhering to the limit … I find it hard to spend that kind of money,' says councillor, who was concerned with cost of annual maintenance

City council put up a collective stop sign Monday on a request for traffic calming measures on four city streets.

After learning city traffic studies showed the measures were not warranted statistically amid concerns about higher-than-expected up-front and annual maintenance costs and with more urgent items to be considered, councillors opted to postpone a decision until next October.

Coun. Jay Fallis spearheaded the idea last year after citizen-led petitions did not prompt any action.
He took up the cause and, eventually, persuaded a majority of his council colleagues to agree to ask staff for a report on the “dangerous” roads and to look into the costs of various ideas including placing flexible centreline signs on those streets.

Since then, city staff studied the streets, conducted traffic surveys and explored the costs and implications of erecting signs.

Ian Sugden, the city’s director of development services, told politicians at Monday’s virtual council committee meeting that neither of the four streets warrant any measures.

In a detailed report that included traffic counts, speed surveys, road measurements and other factors, it was determined that no further measures were required on the four streets:

  • Emperor Drive;
  • Collegiate Drive between Coldwater Road and Park Street;
  • Skyline Drive between West Street and Alexander Road; and
  • Alexander Road.

Sugden said that in all four cases, posted speed limits were obeyed at least 85 per cent of the time. The average speed of drivers on these roadways is less than the speed limit.

That’s not to say some drivers aren’t speeding. The report indicated, for example, that the maximum speed recorded on Emperor Drive during the survey was 110 km/h. 

“This is an unacceptable speed,” noted the report to council. “However, vehicles travelling over 100 km/h on Emperor Drive represent 0.04% of the vehicles counted … (and) vehicles travelling at or above 70 km/h represented 0.28%. Therefore, less than half of one percent of the vehicles logged on Emperor Drive drove above 70 km/h.”

The report noted that over five days, an average of three cars per day drove at or above 70 km/h. In addition, less than 2% of the vehicles drove between 60 and 69 km/h. Therefore, almost 98% of the vehicles recorded drove at or less than 59 km/h, noted the report. 

“In other words, 5,233 drivers out of 5,346 recorded, drove less than 59 km/h. Over 82% of the vehicles drove below the speed limit,” concluded the report, noting similar statistics were logged for the other three streets in question.

The cost was also a red flag for some councillors.

The total up-front cost for flexible centreline signs on each street is about $24,000. The total yearly maintenance for all four streets would be about $19,600.

“I have a problem with the cost,” said Coun. Ralph Cipolla. “To go with that expense when the majority of people are adhering to the limit … I find it hard to spend that kind of money. We have more important things at this time in our lives to deal with than a speed limit that is adhered to by 85 per cent of people.”

Coun. Emond said he had a problem going further with the idea because of the clear conclusion from the staff study.

“At this point in time, the warrants on all four streets don’t come anywhere close to warranting this kind of traffic calming measures,” said Emond, noting he was not in favour of the plan.

Fallis, who asked his colleagues to delay the decision for two weeks, said he hoped to use that time to refine the plan.

“There are some specifics around the number of signs,” said Fallis, noting the proposal is different than what has been done in Severn and elsewhere.

He said he wanted the time “to find a balance between cost and safety and I think that’s really the priority,” said Fallis.

Coun. Mason Ainsworth, who was originally in favour of studying this issue, said he thought the project should be postponed for three to six months.

“I don’t see it as a priority,” said Ainsworth, noting the pandemic has turned priorities upside down. “This is something we could put on the back burner for a bit.”

Fallis said residents in the neighbourhoods impacted want the issue addressed sooner rather than later.

“They really stressed to me it should be addressed immediately,” said Fallis, who had hoped to have measures in place by this summer.

Ultimately, council voted to postpone any decision on the matter until October. At that time, a refine proposal could be considered by politicians.