A proposal to lower speed limits throughout Whitehorse’s downtown is expected to come forward to Whitehorse city council early in the new year.
At a Dec. 11 technical briefing, City of Whitehorse officials said efforts are now underway to inform the public of the proposed change before it comes forward to city council in January.
If it is approved by council, an education campaign and budget changes would be made before the new speed limits come into effect.
The changes would see speed limits for Second and Fourth avenues lowered to 40 km/hr compared the current 50 km/hr speed limit. Meanwhile the speed limit for all other downtown streets would be lowered to 30 km/hr.
School zones would remain in place.
The proposed changes come out of a study done earlier this year focused on lowering speed limits in the neighbourhood. That study came out of the Second Avenue corridor study looking at traffic along one of the city’s busiest streets.
City transportation engineer Stefan Baer highlighted the results of the study, as he had recently done at a council and administrative roundtable discussion about it. The results show that lowering speed limits can reduce the number of severe crashes, along with increasing the field of vision for drivers and shortening the distance required for a vehicle to stop.
A number of initiatives done by other cities and towns were cited showing lower speed limits significantly decreased the number of crashes as well as injuries from crashes.
In Seattle, for example, a reduction from a 50 km/h speed limit to a 40 km/h speed limit resulted in a 22 per cent reduction in crashes and an 18 per cent reduction in injuries from collisions that did happen.
Other communities have also seen similar changes.
Airdrie, Alta., for example, has had a default speed limit of 30 km/hr on residential roads since 1982 and in 2019 Jasper, Alta., moved to a 30 km/hr limit on all but two roads in the community.
Baer said that while lowering speed limits has been shown to decrease the number and severity of collisions, enforcement is also important.
“Speed limit reductions need to be complemented by enforcement as well,” he said.
Whitehorse RCMP Cpl. Natasha Dunmall said that should the city move forward with the proposed changes to the speed limit, drivers may notice an increase in the RCMP visibility downtown as officers work to enforce and educate on the new speed limits.
Other long-term initiatives outlined as ways of reducing drivers speed on city roads — such as road design — could be considered in the long term, city engineering manager Taylor Eshpeter said.
It’s anticipated making the change to the speed limit could cost between $10,000 and $30,000, an effort that would include signage changes and an education campaign.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org