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Council drops speed limits in residential areas

North Bay's elected officials had a long and complicated evening on Monday.
North Bay's elected officials had a long and complicated evening on Monday.

City council dealt with traffic safety issues on its agenda, however, some might say it would take a turn for the worse as discussions long and heated on the less than transparent issues.

The evening saw council at odds with each other with veteran councillors, picking apart what should have been a simple and familiar process.

A well versed Gordon Rennie, a North Bay resident and concerned motorist, presented the known statistics and information regarding the requirements of a four-way stop on Murray and Copeland Streets.

His recommendation, as was the city's engineers, was that the traffic flow and statistics of the area did not warrant the introduction of the four way stop.

Rennie, a regional issues advisor who works for the Ministry of Transportation, says installing the four way stop would create more congestion and pollution, among other concerns.

“If you make the problem worse, you're not helping these people,” Rennie said during his presentation.

Debating this, councillors split into two groups, one wanting more information on the hasty decision, the other wanting to pass the motions without further study.

Surprisingly, it was revealed during the discussions that some emergency response units such as the North Bay Fire Department may not be in favor of the four stop intersection because of possible delays; however, it seemed to some that the majority of council felt this was of little concern to the perceived benefit of public safety in the area.

To complicate matters further, the motion was split into other directives that would see a traffic safety zone be applied to the less than clear zones around schools in the area with young children, which would include King George Public School and Algonquin Secondary School.

The real shocker of the ABC motion was that branch C of the less than somewhat related proposals would go ahead and reduce all municipal roadways to a maximum speed limit of 40 km an hour.

This resulted in numerous councillors questioning the motion and calling for clarification of the three pronged proposal and the procedures necessary to agree, disagree or call for study in the likelihood they were not completely comfortable with the presentation of the by-laws before them.

A never before seen tactic was used to re-table the motion that was originally lost, thereby being shelved for a year was avoided by reintroducing the same statement as a negative and manipulating the third point to now deal with a city wide speed reduction to 40 km an hour on all city residential streets but not those deemed as collectors and arterial roads.

The meaning of which (arterials) may now be difficult to define as the city disregarded the Ontario definition of what is required for a four way stop in the same motion.
Murray, the street in question, what might be defined as an arterial, will now have an all-way stop, a mere two lots from a major left and right turn at its Jane and Front Streets approach.

In addition, the area, now a school safety zone, will have speeds further reduced to 30 km an hour during school hours, which includes the lower areas of Jane and Algonquin.

This pilot project is expected to be implemented within the next two months, with the area being monitored for effectiveness during a six month probationary period.

Residents in the area around Murray were pleased with the outcome at city council for now but it would not be surprising to see heavier stop and go, bumper to bumper traffic also creating safety and frustrations in the area that might be better served by directing some of the traffic to another route.

However, it would be a surprise if more residents aren't also upset with the new slower speed limit impeding their daily commutes and travels as well as increasing the time spent daily on slow moving roadways.

“I think that we have to look at a bigger picture and it's not about the cost of fuel or the amount of time it takes to get somewhere,” says Murray Street resident Steve Simpson.

“The community's safety in general is, with all due respect, far more important than saving a little bit of fuel and a little bit of time to get to work in the morning.”