Mayor Watson seeks ‘made in Ottawa’ solution to provincially-mandated photo radar signs

Click to play video: 'Ottawa mayor, Ontario premier talk photo radar during Friday meeting'
Ottawa mayor, Ontario premier talk photo radar during Friday meeting
Ottawa mayor, Ontario premier talk photo radar during Friday meeting – Dec 6, 2019

The province has agreed to explore a “made in Ottawa solution” to the design and size of the photo radar street signs it’s asking municipalities to install, Mayor Jim Watson said after meeting with the premier of Ontario and four local MPPs on Friday.

Ottawa will have to put up the signs in both English and French and because the signs also large, the city is worried it won’t be able to deploy photo radar cameras on urban streets that could benefit from more traffic enforcement, the mayor said.

“The premier undertook to look into that to see how we could get more of a ‘made in Ottawa’ solution to our issues,” Watson told reporters. “We want to have the bilingual signs, but we want to make sure that all neighbourhoods are are protected.”

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

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The mayor met with Premier Doug Ford and Ottawa MPPs Lisa MacLeod, Jeremy Roberts, Goldie Ghamari and Merrilee Fullerton at the Shaw Centre on Friday. Before the closed-door meeting, Watson said the group would discuss five or six issues “important” to the national capital and the province.

The day prior, Watson said he added photo radar to his list of issues to raise with the province after the City of Ottawa just recently discovered it will have to put up separate signs warning drivers that the speed cameras are on the way, for a period of 90 days.

From left: Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, Nepean MPP Lisa MacLeod, Ottawa West-Nepean MPP Jeremy Roberts, Carleton MPP Goldie Ghamari, Kanata-Carleton MPP Merrilee Fullerton and Ontario Premier Doug Ford. The group met in Ottawa on Dec. 6, 2019. Beatrice Britneff / Global News

The mayor had said he was “disappointed” that Ottawa would have to wait another three months before using photo radar, when the city had been planning to start its automated speed enforcement pilot this month in eight community safety zones near a dozen schools.

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“I don’t understand. This issue’s been studied ad nauseam,” Watson told reporters Thursday. “We know that photo radar in school zones will help save lives and prevent accidents.”

On Friday, Watson said the group of politicians “talked about” the 90-day warning period.

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

The mayor reiterated his position that the city’s photo radar program won’t be a “money grab” and that any revenues collected from fines in community safety zones would be boomeranged back into “traffic safety initiatives.”

Ford didn’t specify whether he believes photo radar is a cash grab when asked, but suggested he supports Watson’s push for speed cameras.

“I don’t believe the mayor believes it’s a money grab. He wants safety first, it’s a priority. And once people realize that these are going out, they’re going to be a lot more cautious,” the premier said.

“If we could save one life, it’s worth it. So, no, he always has the interest of the people at heart, and so we’re going to work closely with him.”

Mayor, premier begin ‘preliminary discussions’ on Stage 3 LRT

More than eight months after confirming Ontario’s $1.2 billion contribution towards the construction of Ottawa’s second phase of light-rail transit (LRT), Watson and Ford have now kicked off discussions about the third stage of the LRT network.

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Stage 3 LRT could go out to Kanata or Barrhaven – but Watson has said his preference would be to extend the train to both suburbs at the same time.

Click to play video: 'Politicians, media ride LRT trains ahead of Confederation Line’s handover to city'
Politicians, media ride LRT trains ahead of Confederation Line’s handover to city

“We started the preliminary discussions on phase three. We know we have to continue the momentum of light rail to the fastest growing parts of our city – Barrhaven and Kanata and Stittsville,” Watson said.

“We’ll work with the province and they’ve been good partners to date and we’ll work with the federal government as well.”

In response to an earlier question about Ontario’s environmental targets, Ford brought up the province’s investments in public transit – including Ottawa’s LRT system – in order to get more cars off the streets.

“We look forward to getting the whole transit system – phase one, phase two, phase three up and going here in Ottawa,” the premier said.

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READ MORE: Bugs disrupting LRT service declining but no sure-fire date for stable train: OC Transpo

In November, federal Infrastructure Minister and Ottawa Centre MP Catherine McKenna said the federal government is “certainly open” to funding Stage 3 LRT but needs to see “a project proposal that has to be supported by the province.”

An environmental assessment report calculated that taking the LRT to Kanata, in the city’s west end, would cost $1.85 billion. An environment assessment on extending the tracks to Barrhaven, southwest of downtown Ottawa, is ongoing.

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