A proposed study would look at the impacts of reducing speed limits throughout downtown Whitehorse to 40 km/h.
City engineering manager Taylor Eshpeter brought it forward at Whitehorse city council’s April 20 meeting, proposing council approve adding $15,000 from the capital reserve to fund the study.
Eshpeter highlighted a council and administrative roundtable meeting earlier this year focused on a study of the Second Avenue corridor.
The city began work on the study last year. It was underway before the November death of a pedestrian who was hit by a vehicle while crossing Second Avenue at the Elliott Street crosswalk, though the fatality brought more attention to safety issues on the downtown thoroughfare.
At the January council and administrative roundtable, council members asked for more information about the possibility of reducing the speed to 40 km/h from the current 50 km/h downtown.
“To better understand potential impacts to the transportation network as a result of the proposed speed reduction and its expected effectiveness in the context of the downtown area, administration is proposing that a brief engineering study be completed before bringing a bylaw amendment forward to council for the speed reduction,” Eshpeter stated in his report to council. “The study will also provide an indication of the estimated costs to implement this speed reduction.”
The study would be done by Stantec Engineering, which did the initial Second Avenue corridor study.
It would explore questions like the best options and locations for speed signs, whether additional signs should be added and more, Eshpeter said. He noted it’s anticipated there will be a number of questions the study would set out to answer before any speed limit change came forward.
Council members, however, expressed concern that it appears city staff are moving forward with the speed reduction rather than simply gathering more information to consider the matter.
“It feels like the decision’s been made,” Coun. Dan Boyd said.
Boyd said he would have rather seen a study that would look for more information, exploring the pros and cons of a reduced speed limit, what would be needed to implement a lower speed limit and how that would happen. At that point the city could consider the possibility of a speed reduction with the information gathered.
Others echoed Boyd’s concerns. Among others, Coun. Samson Hartland stated he was surprised by the wording of the report to council, which appeared to indicate a decision and Coun. Laura Cabott wondered if the city was getting ahead of itself on the matter.
Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu also highlighted the importance of education and enforcement, stating if the speed limit is indeed reduced in the future, both will be important components to ensuring the lower speed limit is followed.
In response to concerns coming from many council members, Eshpeter recalled that at the council and administrative roundtable meeting, members had asked what the city could do now to address speeding on Second Avenue.
Eshpeter suggested this is one improvement that could be considered with minimal expense to the city. He made it clear it is not seen as a the only way to improve traffic speed along Second Avenue.
Cabott confirmed her same recollection of council’s questions at that meeting with Coun. Steve Roddick indicating his support to look at a lower speed limit as part of an overall way to address traffic issues on Second Avenue.
“I do see this as a short-term solution,” Roddick said, adding other changes would be needed to make Second Avenue safer.
Council members were vocal in their desire for the study to explore a speed reduction rather than the assumption the speed will be reduced.
“How can we open this up?” Mayor Dan Curtis questioned during the discussion.
Eshpeter said the questions being asked by council could be addressed in the study should it be approved when council votes on it at its April 27 meeting.
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