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Grey County takes aim at slowing highway traffic in urban areas

·5 min read

Plagued with growing traffic blunders, Grey County is currently examining the speed limit along problem roadways - including Highway 13 through the village of Kimberley in Grey Highlands.

“Speeding is its own epidemic,” said Pat Hoy, director of transportation for Grey County. “We have received more calls about speeding this year than we have ever before. It’s a combination of people home during the pandemic, more people walking and cycling. There is a lot of traffic coming up here from the city.”

The village of Kimberley is located in the heart of the Beaver Valley and tends to draw hikers, bikers and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds. Since the onset of the pandemic, Kimberley residents say the parking issues and dangerous driving through their community has escalated substantially.

“We have noticed a huge increase in the volume and speed of traffic. We believe but it's been amplified by the pandemic because people are wanting nature experiences. And so smaller, rural Ontario is a popular place to go and we're not far from the city. So, it is busy,” said Martha Rogers, Kimberley resident.

Rogers is a member of the Kimberley Safety Group, a group of local residents who came together over the concerns of public and road safety.

Earlier this year, in an effort to draw attention to the issues they were seeing on their local roadway, the group provided a deputation to both the municipality of Grey Highlands and Grey County.

The local residents pleaded with the regulating bodies to look at the speed limits in the community, as well as the length of the community safety zones on either side of the village.

“With so many people hiking, access to the Kimberley Trail is located right almost at the point where the safety zone ends. So, people just start ramping up their speed right there,” explained Rogers. “It is an accident waiting to happen.”

At a county council meeting held late last week, county staff proposed extending the community safety zones on either side of the village and reducing the approaching speed in those areas from 80 km/h to 70 km/h.

However, Grey Highlands Mayor Paul McQueen asked for council’s consideration to take it a step further and drop the speed limit through the village core from 50 km/h to 40 km/h.

“I know that there have been a number of years of issues with regard to speeding through Kimberley,” McQueen said. “I would respectfully submit that we make a change to the report and that we reduced the Kimberley area in the hamlet itself from 50 to 40.”

Despite the change not corresponding with the county’s official traffic policy, Hoy agreed to the 40 km/h proposal due to the high level of foot traffic in the area.

However, he noted the step down speed would likely need to be adjusted from 70 km/h to 60 km/h to allow for a smoother transition.

“70 to 40 is quite a step down so maybe that should be a 60-zone if we're determined to get the urban area to 40,” Hoy said.

Council members voted in favour of the changes, which will see a bylaw amendment come forward for approval at the next county council meeting on Aug. 12.

. By Contributed photo.

The proposed changes will include extending the community safety zone from 675-metres north of the intersection of Grey Road 30 to 100-m south of the intersection of Grey Road 30 and from 300-m south of the intersection of Grey Road 7 to 460-m north of the intersection of Grey Road 7. The speed limit in this section is expected to be reduced from 80 km/h to 60 km/h.

Additionally, the speed limit through the village core is proposed to drop to 40 km/h.

“We were delighted to see the proposal. And we are especially grateful to Pat Hoy, who spoke to the need, not only to reduce speed in Kimberley, but to really embrace the progressive idea that you can’t suddenly go from 80 to 40, you need a gradual reduction so that cars are alerted to the fact that they're coming into the village,” said Rogers.

Rogers explained that many of the requests from the Kimberley Safety Group were based on recommendations found in Canada’s Road Safety Strategy for 2025, a guidance document that was developed by the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators and provides Canadian jurisdictions and road safety stakeholders with an inventory of road safety initiatives that can be adopted to address their specific road safety challenges.

“In my opinion, every county should formally embrace Canada's Road Safety Strategy for 2025. And if they did, all of our roads, our villages, our towns, our communities, will become a safer place over the next 10 years. No doubt about it,” Rogers added.

Rogers said at one point she had been feeling very pessimistic about the possibility of seeing safety changes implemented in her community, but added that there now seems to be an increased awareness about the need for improved road safety.

She said that the Kimberley Safety Group is grateful for the response it has received from staff and council members at both the county and municipal level.

“To any group that is concerned about an issue in their community, you can be heard and you can make change. But think about how you can do it in a constructive way,” Roger said.

“One thing that our group has really, really tried to do was to stay on the positive side of things and present some options. As well as making sure those options are really well researched and presented clearly,” she continued.

The county will also be exploring the possibility of using automatic speed cameras for increased enforcement and to help curb incidents of speeding and stunt driving. Hoy anticipates bringing a staff report forward for council’s consideration on traffic cameras in September.

Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca

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