County council defers approval of speed management guidelines

WELLINGTON COUNTY – County council has deferred adoption of new speed management guidelines pending receipt of further data through the implementation phase.

Councillor Andy Lennox, chair of the county roads committee, said the guidelines generated “significant discussion” during the April 13 roads committee meeting.

A motion to endorse the speed management guidelines, as part of a Road Master Action Plan being developed by the county, passed at the committee meeting in a 3-2 recorded vote, with Lennox, Warden Kelly Linton and councillor Alan Alls in favour and councillors Jeff Duncan and James Seeley opposed.

Because the guidelines are designed to result in similar operating speeds between different vehicles in the traffic stream, some council members were concerned they could actually result in recommendations to increase speed limits in some areas, including hamlets where citizens have lobbied for lower posted limits.

Noting there was “broad agreement” on the vision and goals of the master plan, Lennox said

Lennox said a report on the guidelines delivered some “unexpected and unwelcome recommendations” so some councillors “questioned the validity of the guidelines.”

However, Lennox noted the guidelines are “based on data-driven practice for the type of roads that the county network is designed for.

“The guidelines would obviously be different if we were talking about a freeway, or if we were talking about a residential road that you could play hockey on,” he explained.

“Posted speed limits should be technically set in accordance with the function that each road is designed to serve.”

Adding “county roads have been established to be arterial or connecting type roads,” Lennox pointed out the guidelines “definitely recommend lower limits where more risk is expected.”

Implementing the guidelines, said Lennox, “in no way relieves council of our responsibility make what we believe are the best decisions,” as any changes to speed limits will still require committee and council approval.

He added, “I reiterate, these guidelines will not change any speed limits. They’re simply a tool to help council make those type of decisions.”

Councillor Campbell Cork said the reports on the guidelines were confusing.

“I tried to read these reports a couple of times,” he said.

“I have to stay I’m still not clear and if this is going to be a tool that the public is going to go to, I would have to say the verbiage in these reports is anything but encouraging transparency.”

Also, Cork added, “I was a little surprised that I didn’t see any mention of our horse and buggy community and very few mentions of farm equipment – and these are very tricky and potentially dangerous issue that are on our roads.”

Councillor Mary Lloyd said even with guidelines in place, council needs to continue making decisions based on individual situations and public input.

“If we are only driven by a report and not what our public would like us to do, well then we are going to miss the mark,” said Lloyd.

Duncan said the “the fundamental issue” in terms of the guidelines is “we cannot increase speed limits in existing hamlets in urban areas.”

Councillor Steve O’Neil was concerned that basing speed in part on average speeds through a given area means speeders will be helping to set the limits.

“If we go by this data, we’re allowing our speeders to set our speed limits in hamlets … and I think that’s completely crazy,” said O’Neil.

“If we’re going to let people who are speeding excessively help set the speed limit, I don’t see that as a solution whatsoever.”

Councillor Chris White said speeding is “probably the number one concern and complaint that you get, certainly at the lower tier …

“Its chronic and its everywhere, so to try to resolve it is an incredible task and I don’t know that you’ll ever resolve it.”

White added, “Everyone would like the speed limit on their road to be 20 with speed bumps, but everywhere else it should be 100.”

The motion to defer the matter pending further information was approved unopposed.