Winnipeg could soon test a 30 km/h limit on five streets and hire a consultant to study lowering the default speed limit for all residential roads.
But there’s no plan to lower any speed limits at this time, in part because the required signage would cost millions of dollars.
A new public service report calls for a one-year reduced-speed trial, which would cost between $250,000 and $300,000.
An exact date hasn’t been set for the trial, though it could occur in fall 2020 or spring 2021, said David Patman, the city’s manager of transportation planning.
Patman hopes the test period will trigger plenty of feedback to help determine the city’s next steps.
"We want to hear from as many people as we can about this because we know this is such a major issue for people in Winnipeg," he said.
Many Winnipeggers have publicly pushed council to reduce the city’s default 50 km/h speed limit to 30 km/hr on residential roads, arguing that would reduce the risk of fatal crashes and heighten pedestrian and cyclist safety.
By contrast, a petition against lowering the limit to 30 km/hr has gathered more than 6,000 signatures.
Patman said the trial project should attract broad input prior to any decision on a more permanent change.
"We want to take a look at the feedback we get from doing this small trial, seeing how people feel when they’re travelling at 30 (km/hr), if it’s something that people in Winnipeg can live with," he said.
If approved, the speed reduction would be tested on sections of streets with low-volume, low-speed traffic patterns. That would include Roch Street (from Poplar Avenue to Arby Bay), Eugenie Avenue (from St. Mary’s Road to Youville Street), Warsaw Avenue/Fleet Avenue (from Nassau Street to Lindsay Street), Machray Avenue (from Fife Street to Main Street) and Flora Avenue (from Sinclair Street to King Street).
If council approves the proposal as is, the city would also hire a consultant to study the impacts of both 30 km/h and 40 km/h speed limits on all residential roads. No budget has been approved for that study.
Coun. Matt Allard (St. Boniface), the chairperson of council’s public works committee, said he supports the trial project.
"I think it’ll allow Winnipeggers the opportunity to think about it, try it and see how it works in the city," said Allard.
Patman estimates it would cost the city about $7.8 million to add enough signs to legally reduce the speed limits on all Winnipeg residential streets right now, due to provincial sign rules he deemed an impediment to lowering speeds more quickly.
Currently, the Highway Traffic Act requires a fixed speed limit of less than 50 km/h to be signed on every affected Winnipeg street at the point that limit begins, after each intersection with a roadway (other than a back lane) and as close as possible to the intersection itself.
The report suggests council ask the province to require fewer speed limit signs to reduce a street’s maximum speed.
Allard said he’d prefer the city be granted the power to add "gateway signage," which he defines as posting signs with a new default speed limit at the edge of a neighbourhood or city they apply to, should council actually approve one.
Mark Cohoe, the executive director of Bike Winnipeg, deemed it "a little disappointing" that the city isn’t taking more action to reduce speed limits right now but said he’s glad to see a test project proposed.
Cohoe said lower speed limits should make neighbourhoods safer and more inviting.
"It goes beyond the safety issue, it’s also a noise issue, it’s a livability issue," he said.
Coun. Janice Lukes (Waverley West) said she’d prefer to see the city test a speed limit reduction throughout an entire neighbourhood instead.
"I don’t really understand how using five streets is going to give them a comprehensive (view on this)," said Lukes.
All of the changes would require full council approval.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.
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Updated on Tuesday, June 30, 2020 at 4:53 PM CDT: Corrects street designations on Lindsay and Nassau.