The City of Whitehorse is moving closer to replacing downtown’s 50 km/hr speed limit signs with 40 km/hr signs.
At its May 25 meeting, Whitehorse city council passed the first two readings of changes to its traffic bylaw to lower the speed limit, with the exception of school zones, which would remain at 30 km/hr.
The bylaw came formally to council after the city spent months looking at the possibility of a lower speed limit as a way of dealing with traffic issues downtown.
As Coun. Laura Cabott pointed out, a study was done that showed the benefits of slower speed limits (including increased survival rates for pedestrians in collisions) and there has been public input and numerous council meetings where it has been discussed. The change will make the roads safer for cyclists, pedestrians and could see other benefits as well.
“We put a lot of work into this,” she said.
Cabott also acknowledged that lowering the speed limit is just one piece of the puzzle in addressing traffic issues downtown. She pointed out another piece will come with enforcement by the RCMP and that long range plans could see city staff looking at ways to redesign streets for slower traffic.
Coun. Steve Roddick also voiced his support for the changes before voting with the rest of council to move ahead with the first two readings of the bylaw.
Officials had originally considered changing the speed limit to 30 km/hr on all downtown streets with the exception of Second and Fourth Avenues, which would have seen a decrease to 40 km/hr.
As Taylor Eshpeter, the city’s engineering manager, explained in an earlier report to council, the territory’s Motor Vehicles Act requires the city to place signs in each spot where the speed limit changes.
That would mean the city would have to install 78 new speed signs if it went ahead with the two different speed limits throughout downtown; thus the blanket speed limit of 40 km/hr.
“From an implementation perspective, it is also more practical, enforceable and feasible than other options at this time,” Eshpeter said. “This option provides a more uniform and easily understood new speed limit that can be communicated with limited signage and it is a practical speed that may reflect current speeds on most north-south downtown streets.”
Eshpeter went on to note the city could further reduce the speed limit on city streets in the future, if needed.
In addition to streets in the main part of downtown, Robert Service Way from Fourth to Second Avenue would also see a speed reduction to 40 km/hr as part of the changes.
In voting to move forward with the bylaw for the new speed limits, Whitehorse city council also voted in favour of changing the budget to allocate $6,500 for signs and an educations campaign on the changes if they go ahead.
The city would put $5,000 into signage and $1,500 toward the education campaign to inform drivers of the new speed limits.
Council is expected to vote on third reading of the bylaw in June.
If adopted, the new speed limits would come into effect in mid-July.
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