Should a municipal road have the same speed limit when it is not built to the standards of a provincial or county road?
Centre Wellington councillors decided May 26 they want to ponder that question a while before making a decision about the speed limit on the 2nd Line of old Nichol township.
Joan McBurney came to the committee of the whole to say the speed limit on the road, currently 80km per hour, should be reduced to 60. “Driver error is difficult to enforce,” said McBurney, who said the road, with narrow shoulders, lots of hills, and an average of 1,277 vehicles per day should have a lower limit.
She cited studies showing 82.5% of the vehicles on that road travel between 85 and 120km/hour in the 80 zone, meaning 1,059 road are speeding. She said 47% of the drivers do over 95km/hour.
She asked if the 2nd Line fits the criteria for an 80 zone.
She noted the township’s engineering services coordinator Adam Dickieson, was recommending new, oversized School Bus Stop Ahead and Hidden Driveway signs to encourage drivers to reduce their speeds. She thanked the township for painting the centre line.
But, she said, school buses use the road only a couple of hours a day, and farm machines use it almost all hours of daylight, every day, and several police officers think the speed limit there should be reduced.
She questioned if the recommendations will give residents adequate protection.
OPP Sergeant Mike Ashley said he had reviewed Dickieson’s report. Ashley agreed the road’s shoulders are narrow, the road is heavily travelled, and many vehicles exceed the speed limit.
“He said there is “very little room for broken down vehicles” and there are “hazards for pedestrians.”
Ashley said Puslinch Township reduced the speed on one of its roads at the request of residents, and is now getting requests to increase it to the old speed – by the same residents. “They’re getting tickets.”
He said, “We are aware of problems on the 2nd Line. We will be covering the 2nd Line.”
Councillor Kirk McElwain said the speed limit in Ponsonby, on County Road 7 is 60, and there is a difference in the calibre of the two roads.
Ashley said it was considered a “small village” and besides that, there is a school near the hamlet. He added the lower speed limit “hasn’t reduced the speed, in my experience.”
Councillor Fred Morris asked how often the OPP are on the 2nd Line.
Ashley said it is difficult to say, but, he added, the more people complain, the more likely police will patrol there.
Councillor Bob Foster said Highway 6 and County Road 7 have an 80 speed limit, and they have wide shoulders and clear markings. He wondered why the 2nd Line, with next to none of that, should have the same speed limit as those two roads.
Ashley agreed with Foster’s thinking, but pointed out Highway 6 was designed for speed limits of 100 to 120km/hour, but the province set the limits at 80.
“Most roads are designed for 80” he said.
Dickieson said he used provincially approved policies to determine the speed limit should stay at 80.
But, he added, “No one will stick to the speed limits.”
He said the elevation of school buses should make them more visible, and drivers should be able to see more. He added that speed limits are often set by complaints and political pressure.
McElwain asked Dickieson, now that he had heard Ashley’s comments, if there were changes he would make to his report.
Dickieson replied, “No.”
McElwain said he has received calls from school bus drivers who told him when they are stopped at the bottom of hills on the road, cars cresting the hills have to lock up their brakes to keep from hitting the bus “because the buses are not seen.”
Dickieson said if the drivers were driving the speed limit, that would not happen. He added that he had taken speeding drivers into consideration when preparing his report.
Morris asked Road Superintendent Les Davidson why the road is substandard and has narrow shoulders.
Davidson explained the province insists on roads 110 feet wide, the county insists on 100 feet, but municipalities have asked for only 66 feet for “years and years. “We have to work with what we have,” he said, adding that widening the road would eliminate the ditches. The only other alternative would be to expropriate land to allow for wider shoulders.
“All municipal roads have narrow shoulders,” Davidson said.
Councillor Walt Visser suggested the 2nd Line is a victim of progress, and was upgraded and became heavily travelled because of the car parts plant in Elora.
But Davidson said it is a commuter road, and was upgraded long before Jefferson (Elora) came to the area.
A presentation from a Canada Post official earlier in the meeting was cited by councillor Bob Foster.
He said he had just heard of safety problems for rural mail delivery, and that included high speeds and narrow shoulders, the same problems he is hearing with this delegation.
He said the fact is that Highway 6 and County Road 7 are much better roads and have a speed limit of 80, and it seems reasonable to him the 2nd Line limit should be lower.
Morris told residents on the road that the day’s vote would not be the final say for council, and it would come up for ratification in early June. He asked to meet with residents to discuss the issue further.
But that ratification ran into a snag when the vote was called to accept Dickieson’s recommendations.
That was defeated 3-2, with Visser and councillor Shawn Watters in favour, and McElwain, Morris, and Foster opposed.
Council then voted to take the issue back to staff for more study. Councillor Ron Hallman was absent.
Mayor Joanne Ross-Zuj told the residents there would not be any discussion at the first June council meeting.