Review of speed limits planned

Province to soon begin wide probe seeking consistent, safe standards

By: Bruce Owen

The Selinger government is days away from announcing a provincewide review of speed limits on Manitoba's roadways.

Infrastructure and Highways Minister Steve Ashton said Wednesday the goal of the review is to devise more consistent standards of how speed limits are set on Manitoba's highways and streets, including in Winnipeg and Brandon.

That includes addressing the "patchwork-quilt" application of speed limits by municipalities and taking into account newer, better-designed roadways that can handle higher speeds.

"You're not going to get one-size-fits-all," Ashton said. "But there are certain basic parameters that do apply and there are ways of dealing with things.

"What we're trying to get here, and the balance of the review will reflect that, is making sure that we get the recognition of local realities, but at the same time have some consistent speed limits and guidelines."

He said the two basic speed-limit guidelines in Manitoba are that when driving in the city, the speed limit is 50 km/h unless otherwise posted and when driving on the highway, the speed limit is 90 km/h or 100 km/h unless otherwise posted.

"We'll look at all those elements," he said. "We're going to look at the general parameters in terms of speed limits and a combination of everything from the convenience side of it to safety. Safety will always be paramount."

CAA Manitoba and the Manitoba Trucking Association welcomed the upcoming review, saying it's badly needed to address inconsistencies in how speed limits are determined.

"A lot of development has been done over the last 10 to 20 years and as they've added roads, Bishop Grandin and Kenaston, I don't think there's been a lot of consistency," CAA Manitoba vice-president of marketing and sales Tim Scott said. "A lot of roads have been developed from single lanes to two lanes and that makes a big difference.

"But the litmus test is always safety."

Terry Shaw, general manager of the Manitoba Trucking Association, said more consistent speed limits would mean better efficiencies for the trucking industry.

"Efficiency comes through setting speeds based on an informed decision, which comes from a legitimate study," Shaw said. "Our concern is the inconsistencies -- the 60 to 50, the 70 to 50, items like that, the inconsistencies without legitimate reasons or legitimate purpose or inconsistent signage."

Ashton said the review -- which will include public consultation -- will not alter the province's position on reduced speeds in school zones. Last year, Ashton introduced legislation to give local authorities the power to create reduced-speed zones for schools.

Last August, Winnipeg city council voted unanimously to reduce the speed limit to 30 kilometres per hour in elementary school zones.

Last month, a city committee rejected a call to reduce the residential speed limit in Winnipeg from 50 km/h to 40 km/h. A city report said many studies conducted throughout North America showed driver speed is affected by the road conditions and not by speed-limit signs.

Ashton said the provincial review is separate from the work of the province's Highway Traffic Board, which is considering raising speed limits on selected stretches of city streets, including sections of Dugald Road, Grant Avenue, Pembina Highway and Waverley Street. The board held public hearings late last fall.

However, he added the provincial review will examine the role of both the Highway Traffic Board and the Motor Transport Board.

The boards were amalgamated more than a decade ago and serve different functions: The wHighway Traffic Board is responsible for the administration of speed limits, and the Motor Transport Board is responsible for the licensing of truck operations and intercity buses, plus regulating rates for intra-provincial bus operations.

The province last increased the speed limit on certain sections of twinned roadways in Manitoba to 110 km/h in July 2009, including the Trans-Canada Highway from the Saskatchewan border to Virden and Highway 75 from the Emerson border crossing to St. Jean Baptiste.

A DRIVING FORCE: CAA Manitoba recently questioned 8,628 of its members on driving and speeding

How acceptable do you personally feel it is for a driver to drive above the speed limit on a highway?

Completely acceptable 5.8% (498)

Somewhat acceptable 43.6% (3,755)

Somewhat unacceptable 25.1% (2,161)

Completely unacceptable 25.0% (2,155)

I don't know 0.04% (34)

How acceptable do you personally feel it is for a driver to drive above the speed limit on a residential street?

Completely acceptable 2.0% (169)

Somewhat acceptable 4.7% (400)

Somewhat unacceptable 17.2% (1,478)

Completely unacceptable 75.8% (6,496)

I don't know 0.3% (29)

When on a residential street, how often do you drive over the speed limit?

All the time 0.6% (49)

More than half the time 1.5% (130)

On occasion 13.8% (1,172)

Very rarely 48.0% (4,080)

Never 36.0% (3,064)

Not applicable 0.1% (12)

When on a highway, how often do you drive over the speed limit?

All the time 6.2% (525)

More than half the time 23.6% (2,006)

On occasion 38.4% (3,266)

Very rarely 24.0% (2,045)

Never 7.5% (636)

Not applicable 0.4% (34)

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 14, 2013 A3