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Committee puts brakes on stop signs, but slows down drivers in school zones

By: Darren MacDonald - Sudbury Northern Life

 | Jan 20, 2014 - 10:00 PM |
On Monday, members of Greater Sudbury's operations committee rejected calls to add all-way stops signs at six intersections in the city. But that may not be the end of it -- a similar decision was reversed by city council Jan 14. File photo.

On Monday, members of Greater Sudbury's operations committee rejected calls to add all-way stops signs at six intersections in the city. But that may not be the end of it -- a similar decision was reversed by city council Jan 14. File photo.

Traffic issues across Sudbury spark heated debate Monday

The speed limit on residential roads in Sudbury is staying at 50 km/hr, but members of the operations committee voted Monday to accelerate plans to reduce speeds to 40 km/hr in several school safety zones across the city.

And, in a traffic-heavy agenda, committee members also decided to keep speeds at 40 km/hr on South Bay Road, despite a petition from residents in the area to restore it to 50 km/hr.

It also rejected requests for several all-way stops in Sudbury, but agreed to have staff study adding roads in the Moonglo subdivision to the city salt route during winter, and for a flashing light.

The first proposal – reducing the speed limit to 40 across the city – was rejected, in part, because of cost. In order to alert drivers to the new rules, new signs would have to be erected in locations across Greater Sudbury, at an estimated cost of $2.5 million.

Dollar concerns aside, Roads Director David Shelsted told councillors several studies have shown most people drive at a speed they consider reasonable and safe for road, traffic and weather conditions. A study from B.C. found speed limits set higher or lower than what is reasonable are ignored by the majority of motorists.

“The normally careful and competent actions of a reasonable person should be considered legal,” the study concluded. “A speed limit should be set so that the majority of motorists observe it voluntarily and enforcement can be directed to the minority of offenders.”

And a report entitled Ontario Chief Coroner’s Report into Pedestrian Deaths concluded people will drive at those speeds regardless of the posted limits.

“When the City of Ottawa reduced speed from 50 km/h to 40 km/h, studies which followed indicated that there was no substantial change in speed which motorists travelled the roads.”

Ward 11 Coun. Terry Kett said lowering the speed limit would create a situation in which pedestrians believe they're safer, when in reality drivers are going at the same speed.

“You're setting yourself up,” Kett said. “It's bound to fail.”

However, while deciding not to change the global speed limit in Sudbury, the committee voted to divert money from its traffic calming budget to speed up the conversion of speed limits in 20 school zones that haven't yet been changed from 50 to 40. That means the conversion should be done by the end of this year, rather than in four years.

The committee also rejected putting all-way stop signs at six intersections, following traffic studies that showed they weren't warranted. The intersections are at Whittaker Street at Isabel Street; Isabel Street and Albinson Street; Irving Street at Clemow Avenue; Gold Street at Zinc Street; Moonrock Avenue at Arnold Street; and Niemi Road at Sugarbush Drive.
Four of them were in Ward 1 Coun. Joe Cimino's area, and he had a motion to add two more. But realizing he didn't have enough support on the committee – “I can count,” he quipped – Cimino accepted defeat.

But he implored city staff to not rely so heavily on statistical analysis and instead go to the areas and see for themselves all the near misses and hazards going on daily.

“You have to get away from the computer screens and go look,” Cimino said.

He also asked for change in the salt truck route to cover more of the Moonglo subdivision, for the sidewalk on Whittaker Street between MacLeod and Struthers Streets be plowed, and for a flashing beacon at Southview Drive and Kelly Lake Road.

Staff replied that salt routes are strictly limited because of budget and environmental concerns, that adding plowing would cost more, as would the flashing light.

Cimino asked for a report to find out more details of what the requests involved, prompting a heated exchange with Kett, who said Cimino's requests were getting “frivolous.”

“I'm not going to support this, 'me first' type of thinking,” Kett said. “Not a chance. You should know better than this.”

“I'm not going to debate with you,” Cimino shot back.

However, the committee agreed to have staff prepare reports on the flashing light and the salt route. When committee chair Jacques Barbeau asked Cimino when he wanted the reports, Cimino said “Before I die.”

“That's hard to say, Coun. Cimino,” Barbeau quipped.

In the end, the committee set a summer deadline, with Kett the only one voting no.

The committee also decided to keep the 40 km/hr speed limit on South Bay Road, despite a petition from residents asking that it be restored to 50. However, accessing Sudbury's hospice along that road involves making a sharp turn. Barbeau said people driving to the hospice already “have a lot on their minds,” so slower speeds are warranted.

And Ward 10 Coun. Frances Caldarelli, whose area includes the roadway, said even the staff report showed drivers have slowed down since the limit was reduced two years ago.
Darren MacDonald

Darren MacDonald

Staff Writer


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