Councillors race through traffic-calming funds

As this term of council winds down, councillors have spent most of the $160,000 they were each given to put up stakes and signs to slow speeders.

Only 2 councillors have spent less than $100K of their $160K traffic-calming funds

Ottawa city councillors received a total of $160,000 during the 2014-18 term to spend on preventing speeding in their wards. (Kate Porter/CBC)

As this term of council winds down, all but two councillors have spent most of the $160,000 they were each given to put up stakes and signs in their wards to slow speeders.

Safety on Ottawa roads is a common concern they hear from residents.

Each of the 23 councillors received $40,000 a year in each of the past four years to spend on "traffic-calming" methods in his or her ward.

Councillors get to buy solar-powered signs that display motorist speeds, as well as speed-limit stakes, pavement markings and planters to install where residents want drivers to slow down.

Pricier, permanent structures such as raised crossings and speed bumps are usually installed through more complicated neighbourhood studies.

'I don't want to spray money around'

Coun. Rick Chiarelli, who is running for re-election in Nepean's College ward, was on pace to spend $72,000 of his traffic-calming budget — less than half the $160,000 he was allotted.

"Just because money's there doesn't mean you spend it," he said. "I don't want to spray money around just to empty the tank. I only spend the money when it's going to produce results."

He explained that two streets in his ward — Centrepointe and Viewmount drives — are being studied for more extensive, costly modifications.

Chiarelli said he's saving his remaining budget to "top up" those projects.

On streets where cheaper, flexible stakes were appropriate, Chiarelli said he put them in.

Rideau-Goulbourn councillor spends the least

But while Chiarelli didn't spend all the money in his fund, he also suggested the city doesn't spend enough on stopping speeders.

"If you're only putting $40,000 in a ward, that's symbolism more than anything else, because it isn't going to solve many problems.... We're almost like being the physicians who prescribe antibiotics regardless just to make the patient happy."

Coun. Scott Moffatt of Rideau-Goulbourn was surprised to hear his own office had spent the least of all the wards at $35,700.

Many devices don't suit rural roads, he explained.

His office was slow to receive requests for traffic calming but is receiving more now that the flashing speed boards and signs are more commonplace, Moffatt added.

Outgoing Orléans Coun. Bob Monette spent most of his traffic-calming budget on installing flashing speed boards and painting speed limits on pavement near all 19 schools in his ward. (Kate Porter/CBC)

Signs 'quite effective'

In Orléans, outgoing Coun. Bob Monette used his budget to put up flashing speed signs and paint speed limits on pavement around all 19 of his ward's schools.

The speed boards don't just offer drivers the courtesy of telling them their speeds, they also collect and send data to the cloud.

Monette said it helps councillors determine how many vehicles go by at what speeds on a given day, so they can work with police and send officers to target speeders.

"They tend to slow down, so it has proven to be quite effective," Monette said.

The fund is supposed to end with this council term, but many councillors expect the council that's elected Oct. 22 to continue the fund or even increase it.