'I throw up my hands as a driver': Councillors order review of speeds near Chief Mistawasis Bridge
Drivers are refusing to use the bridge because of mix of speeds, councillors say
Saskatoon city councillor Randy Donauer says fewer people than expected are using the multi-million-dollar Chief Mistawasis Bridge because drivers are frustrated with the speed limits in the area.
"Sorry to bring up the elephant in the room," Donauer said at a Monday committee meeting where councillors voted unanimously to have the speed limits on the Chief Mistawasis Bridge and surrounding area reviewed by city hall.
"I hear that regularly," Donauer said, summing up the feedback thusly: "Nice road. Great job. Beautiful bridge. I'll never drive it 'cause you make me go too slow."
Before the bridge opened in October 2018, city council placed a speed limit of 70 kilometres on the bridge but opted to retain the regular speed limit of 50 kilometres on the new stretch of McOrmond Drive immediately east of the bridge.
The lower speed limit was chosen in deference to the wildlife in the ecologically-sensitive Northeast Swale.
That section also goes through the early-stage Aspen Ridge development.
But Donauer and other councillors said that with a year of driving under their belts, drivers in the area are not happy with the mix of speeds.
"I hear all the time about people refusing to use that bridge and the drive because of the speed limit," Donauer said.
"I hear exactly the same same thing: that they avoid the area because of the speed changes," echoed fellow councillor Bev Dubois.
The review ordered by councillors will compare drivers' actual speeds with the posted speeds.
Donauer and Dubois' comments came after a new report showed an average of 9,900 drivers use the bridge each day, down from forecasts of 14,600 to 21,700.
Both Donauer and Dubois said they understood why the lower speed was posted east of the bridge. But councillor Zach Jeffries said not everyone does.
"Imagine how people who don't know the rationale behind those decisions are feeling," he said. "They're feeling even more frustrated than we are."
"And I have to admit that if I'm driving McOrmond going from 60 to 50 [km/h] in an undeveloped area, 60 to 70 [km/h on the bridge and] back down to 60 [km/h] on Marquis if I'm going to SaskTel Centre, I kind of throw up my hands as a driver."
11 deer hit in 1st year
Councillors also asked for information on the number of collisions between vehicles and wildlife in the area.
CBC News has recently obtained such statistics from the city.
From Sept. 1, 2018 to Aug. 28, 2019, vehicles collided with 17 animals along McOrmond Drive and the Chief Mistawasis Bridge.
Of the 17 collisions, 11 involved deer.
The city said one factor to consider was whether speed was a factor in the wildlife collisions — "especially on McOrmond, where City Council enacted a lower limit."
By comparison, during the same period, a total of 139 animal carcasses were collected on roadways outside that area.
Graham Commuter Partners, which built the bridge, is responsible for the cleanup and reports the numbers to the city.
Jeffries asked the city if the speed limit for the section of McOrmond Drive going through Aspen Ridge couldn't be raised temporarily until development there intensifies.
"I understand that particular stretch is designed for a future where we have businesses and multifamily and all sorts of mixed use near the roadway and pedestrian crossings and everything else.
"But today there is nothing there."
A city staffer said the city has received some development applications for that area but was unsure about their statuses.
"Could we hypothetically sign it at 60 kilometres an hour and years down the road, when there's development happening there, lower it to 50 kilometres an hour?" Jeffries asked.
The staffer said there was no engineering reason why that couldn't be done.