110 km/h coming to 3 Ontario highways starting September

Ontario's transportation minister announced on Friday 3 pilot projects that will see speed limits on three provincial highways increase to 110 km/h, a move that has drawn both applause and concern from experts. 

Speed limits on Ontario highways haven't been reviewed since the oil crisis of the early 1970s

The province has launched a review of speed limits on Ontario's highways. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

Ontario's transportation minister announced on Friday three pilot projects that will see speed limits on provincial highways in southern Ontario increase to 110 km/h, a move that has drawn both applause and concern from experts. 

The announcement was made by Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek near Hwy. 402 and Longwoods Road, in a carpool lot, as cars and trucks whizzed nearby. 

Yurek said the following highways will be part of the pilot project starting in mid-September:

  • Highway 402 from London to Sarnia.
  • The Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) from St. Catharines to Hamilton.
  • Highway 417 from Ottawa/Gloucester to Ontario/Quebec border.

The province is also looking for a suitable highway to pilot higher speeds in Northern Ontario. 

Jeff Yurek, MPP for Elgin-Middlesex-London and Bob Bailey, MPP for Sarnia-Lambton address reporters at the side of Hwy. 402 where speed will increase to 110 km/h in September. (Kate Dubinski/ CBC News)

"Safety is the government's No.1 priority and each pilot location was carefully chosen based on a number of factors, including its ability to accommodate higher speed limits," said Yurek

Fatal collisions in Ontario: 

  • 2016: 517
  • 2015: 454
  • 2014: 439

From Ontario Road Safety Annual Report

He notes the province will hold a series of public consultations starting in the next few weeks. 

The move is a change from the policy of the previous provincial government, which in 2012 rejected a campaign to raise speed limits to 120 or 130 km/h. At the time, then-transportation minister Bob Chiarelli said he made the call because speed is a factor in 20 per cent of fatal crashes in Ontario. 

Speeding crackdown

At the roadside announcement, concerns around safety were answered with a promise to improve signage and messaging on highways.

Yurek wants street-racing penalties to still apply to drivers caught doing 150 km/h or more, pending an amendment to legislation. 

How does Ontario compare?

  • PEI: 90 km/h
  • Nova Scotia: 110 km/h
  • BC: some 120 km/h
  • Autobahn (Germany): none, 130 km/h advised
  • Hawaii: 97 km/h (60 mp/h)
  • Texas: 137 km/h (85 mp/h)

Right now, the 400-series highways, including Hwy. 401, 402, 403 and 417, as well as the Queen Elizabeth Way, have posted limits of 100 km/h. Other provincial highways range between 80 and 90 km/h.

Speed limits haven't been reviewed in the province since the 1970s. They used to be about 110 km/h but were lowered in 1975 because of the oil crisis. 

Yurek points out six other provinces in Canada that have posted speed limits of 110 km/h on certain highways. 

In 2014, British Columbia increased speed limits to 120 km/h in some parts of the province, but has since rolled back those increases because of an alarming increase in serious collisions. 

"Most research shows that if you are involved within a collision and you are driving more than 120 km/h, your chances to survive are almost zero," Mohamed Hussein, a transportation engineering professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, told CBC News earlier this week. 

However, other experts argue that 110 km/h is already the speed most cars travel on 400-series highways, especially in the Greater Toronto Area. 

With files from Kevin Taghabon