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‘Disappointed’ Ottawa mayor to raise photo radar warning period with Premier Ford

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson speaks to reporters at city hall on Nov. 27, 2019.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson speaks to reporters at city hall on Nov. 27, 2019. Beatrice Britneff / Global News

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said he’s “disappointed” the city will have to wait another three months to start using photo radar cameras in select areas near schools, and he plans to raise the issue with Premier Doug Ford on Friday.

I don’t understand. This issue’s been studied ad nauseam,” Watson said at an unrelated event on Thursday.

“We know that photo radar in school zones will help save lives and prevent accidents, so I’m disappointed the province is taking another three months because we’d like to get on with it to collect the data to encourage drivers not to speed in school zones.”

READ MORE: Ottawa’s photo radar pilot delayed until spring due to unexpected rule, staff say

The City of Ottawa recently learned that, before municipalities can deploy photo radar cameras in designated community safety zones, Ontario’s ministry of transportation is making them first install signs for 90 days that warn drivers photo radar is coming to those locations.

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The news — which came as long-awaited provincial regulations on photo radar went into effect on Dec. 1, 2019 — surprised city staff and members of Ottawa city council.

The change means the city can no longer begin rotating four speed cameras across eight new community safety zones — located near a dozen schools — this month, as it had been planning to do for a while.

The automated speed enforcement pilot is now likely to start sometime in March, staff told councillors at a transportation committee meeting on Wednesday.

Toronto to install 50 photo radars following provincial approval
Toronto to install 50 photo radars following provincial approval

The city, however, can’t manufacture the warning signs and put them in the ground until it receives the final design from Ontario’s ministry of transportation.

Watson said he’ll ask the premier if there’s any way the city can “speed that three months up” and suggested separate warning signs ahead of photo radar aren’t necessary.

I think we can put up signs with the starburst that says ‘new’ like we do for other new traffic signals and get on with it a lot quicker,” Watson said.

READ MORE: Ontario government clears way for municipalities to install speed cameras on local roads

Under the current photo radar regime, once the 90-day “heads up” period is over, the city would have to install different, permanent signs at or “immediately before” the sites where photo radar will be used.

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The mayor said the city doesn’t want its photo radar pilot “to be perceived as a cash grab,” which is why the cameras are only being deployed close to some local schools.

“It’s all about safety for children,” he said.

“As you know, kids often get very excited running across the street to get their bus or see their friends and [are] not thinking through the consequences.

“That’s why we need cars to slow down in school zones.”

A media availability with Watson, Ford and Ottawa-area MPPs Lisa MacLeod and Merrilee Fullerton has been scheduled for Friday morning.