PERTH COUNTY – County council approved a plan to reduce speed limits during peak traffic usage of rural school zones across the county on July 8.
“If you recall last year and again this year we’ve had a number of accidents, some severe, on our highways and we’re seeing that all over Ontario,” said John McClelland, director of public works. “It’s a big concern and certainly council has asked what more can we possibly do?”
Asset Management and Engineering Specialist Bill Wilson said the county has received correspondence from the school boards and school councils regarding the rate of speed through school areas, particularly those which are located within a posted 80 km/hr speed limit. The correspondence mainly addresses the rate of speed when vehicles are entering and exiting school grounds are at their daily peaks, these particular times include the morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up periods.
“Acknowledging that enforcement falls on the police department, we’re still looking at doing what we can to enhance the safety through those zones,” he said. “We did some research and canvassed some of the practices that our boundary partners in some of the other counties…are using.”
This has led to county staff recommending the installation of 60 km/hr school zone maximum speed limits when signage is flashing at all school zones on county roads which have a current posted speed of 80 km/hr as a permanent solution. This is consistent with some of the county’s boundary partners and is supported by the Ontario Highway Traffic Act (HTA) and the Ontario Traffic Manual.
He noted that Oxford County was a valuable resource in developing his report.
“They have used these for a number of years now in the rural areas, as well as some of the urban areas, and have had positive feedback not only from the public and the schools on this approach but also through their…staff on the operations of these devices,” said Wilson.
The flashing lights are activated at pre-programed times and intervals which align with the school’s schedule so they operate only during the days when school is in session. The signs are powered by an onboard solar panel.
The HTA permits the designation of a school zone, with a reduced rate of speed, where a highway adjoins the entrance to or exit from a school and that is within 150 metres along the highway in either direction of the school property limits. Seven school zones meet the criteria and are within an existing 80 km/hr speed zone on county roads.
Separate municipal bylaws will be required to set times that the signs are in effect, the flashing lights are activated and to lower the rate of speed.
Staff hopes to have these signs installed before the return of school in September. Funding of $12,000 for each of the seven school zones for a total of approximately $84,000 is required to fund this initiative. The funding will be covered by the capital road reserve.
“I think it’s a great idea myself,” said Warden James Aitcheson.
Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner