Editor’s note: This story originally stated the project would cost the city $2.5 million, but the city said the project estimate changed to $1.1 million. We regret the error.
Edmonton city council has given the final green light to lower the default residential speed limit from 50 km/h to 40 km/h.
This will affect all local and collector residential roads that are currently posted at 50 km/h, with a few exceptions. It will also include other roads that see high peestrian use, including:
- Whyte Avenue from 109 Street to 99 Street
- South of Whyte Ave (82 Ave): The east-west avenues between Gateway Boulevard and Calgary Trail from University Avenue to Whyte Avenue
- Saskatchewan Drive from 110 Street to Emily Murphy Park Road
- Jasper Avenue from 124 Street to 97 Street
- Chinatown: 97 Street to 101 Street from 103A Avenue to 108A Avenue, not including these boundary roads or 107A Avenue
- North of 105 Ave: north-south streets between 105 Avenue and 106 Avenue from 101 Street to 116 Street but not including 101 Street, 109 Street or 116 Street
- Fortway Drive (through the Alberta legislature grounds) from River Valley Road to 107 Street
There are some roads exempt, including arterial and industrial areas, as well as 22 streets where the city’s traffic safety department determined they were wide enough to safely stay at 50 km/h.
Lowering speed limits align with the city’s long-term goal of seeing zero traffic fatalities or serious injuries.
“This is a big step forward in safety on our streets in Edmonton and helping to make Vision Zero a reality,” City of Edmonton director of traffic safety Jessica Lamarre said.
Signs will start going up in the spring, and the new speed limit will go in effect in summer of 2021. An official date has yet to be released.
“Part of the public awareness component is a 10-day notice period to tell Edmontonians when the signs come into effect,” Lamarre said.
“Slowing down even 10 km/h saves lives — what we are talking about is the impact of a vehicle on a body.”
“We actually know from when playground zones were implemented, for people outside of the vehicle the number of crashes that included them massively reduced — 71 per cent, actually. That’s an important factor that we would like to keep in mind.”
In 2019, the city created a browser app called the Estimated Arrival Tool. It showed how long a trip currently takes, then how much time a lower speed would add. Most routes see just a few seconds added.
This has been a lengthy discussion for council. In the spring, more than 20 people registered to speak at the public hearing, with a majority in favour of reducing speed limits.
At Wednesday’s statutory public hearing, seven people spoke, with four against the change. Council voted 9-3 to change the speed limit, with councillors Jon Dziadyk, Mike Nickel and Tim Cartmell voting against.
Some concerns expressed included now not being an appropriate time to be funding such initiative during the COVID-19 pandemic, and concern it’s not going to actually reduce the numbers of collisions.
Councillor Jon Dziadyk opposed the motion at Wednesday’s hearing.
“For the most part, Edmontonian are not asking for this right now and I expressed some concerns that roadways won’t actually be safer if we reduce the speed limit,” Dziadyk said.
“We actually need to make holistic changes to where it’s more dangerous, add more cross walks, add more lights. But just lowering the speed limits across the whole city is not going to achieve our objectives.”
“I know that with my own engagement with the public, they generally feel that it’s not necessary right now, during a pandemic, money could be spent elsewhere and also it’s just not needed on all roads.”
Lamarre told city council during the public hearing that photo radar trucks wouldn’t be enforcing speeds in the areas that will see a reduction — rather, the city will focus on community engagement and culture change to get drivers slowing down on the road.
News signs will start going up in the spring, ahead of the ‘go live’ date. The project will cost the city $1.1 million and come from the Traffic Safety Automated Enforcement Reserve.