Environmentalist calls for reduced speed limits on Chief Mistawasis Bridge

Northeast swale watchers say they are disappointed Saskatoon city council will allow traffic on the Chief Mistawasis bridge to zip along at 70 km/h.

Signs near the bridge indicate a speed limit of 70 kilometres per hour

Construction continues on the Chief Mistawasis Bridge along Saskatoon's new North Commuter Parkway. (Graham Construction)

Louise Jones knows Saskatoon drivers don't always follow the rules.

As chair of the Northeast Swale Watchers, Jones said she is concerned about motorists zipping through two marshy lowland areas when the Chief Mistawasis Bridge opens this fall.

"Speed kills," she told city councillors during Monday's council meeting.

"The swale is too important an area to allow the parkway to become a speedway."

Signs near the bridge and surrounding roadway indicate a speed limit of 70 kilometres per hour across the city's newest bridge.

Motorists may encounter moose, deer, coyotes 

Concerned about wildlife in a smaller swale area where the bridge meets the east shoreline, Jones urged councillors to create a consistent speed limit of 60 kilometres per hour from Wanuskewin Road across the bridge to Central Avenue.

"We're asking the public to reduce speed and be aware of their surroundings," said Louise Jones, who chairs the Northeast Swale Watchers group in Saskatoon. (CBC)

She said with six lanes of traffic crossing the new bridge at 70 kilometres per hour, it will be difficult to convince motorists on a long, straight road to slow down.

"You'll have moose and you'll have deer, you'll have coyotes and you might have an occasional cougar," Jones said.

"People will come off the bridge and they won't see much to slow them down."

Voting against

Ward 10 Councillor Zach Jeffries voted against lowering speed limits. He represents citizens in the north-east corner of Saskatoon.

With an estimated 20,000 vehicles crossing each day, Jeffries said the Chief Mistawasis Bridge is designed for speeds of 70 kilometres per hour, and he does not want it to become a 'speed trap.'

After two and a half kilometres, Jeffries said the speed limit east of the bridge is set to drop to 60 kilometres per hour, then to 50 kilometres per hour east of Central Avenue, as the road enters the northeast swale — a protected area.

"I think it's going to be very clear to people why driving through this area will be different," Jeffries said.

Zach Jeffries represents people living in Saskatoon's north-east corner. He, Bev Dubois, Darren Hill and Randy Donauer voted against lowering the speed limit on the new bridge to 60 km/h. (CBC)

"You're going to see small wildlife crossings in culverts under the road, the road narrows down, the lighting is more sensitive to nocturnal animals," he said.

Jones has requested the city erect more signage warning motorists of wildlife in the area immediately after the bridge.

Acting transportation director Jay Magus said the Meewasin Valley Authority was tasked with creating 'educational' signage for drivers.

He said those signs are not likely to be up when the parkway opens this fall, but the city will be monitoring speeds on the new roadways.

Saskatoon City Council will make a final decision on speed limits for the bridge and parkway at its next meeting in September.