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More talks needed with businesses before speed limit reduced downtown, council says

City hall will not implement any traffic control measures right now to slow traffic on sections of Main Street North but could look at some speed reduction measures in the future.
Moose Jaw City Hall
Moose Jaw City Hall (Shutterstock)

City hall will not implement any traffic control measures right now to slow traffic on sections of Main Street North but could look at some speed reduction measures in the future.

During its Jan. 24 regular meeting, city council voted unanimously to receive and file a report that looked at traffic calming alternatives on that street. However, it wanted more discussion with the Downtown Moose Jaw Association and input from businesses about possible measures.  

The association asked council last June to reduce speed to 40 kilometres per hour from 50 kilometres per hour from Oxford Street to Manitoba Street. The group had initiated its pop-up patio project and thought slowing traffic would ensure the project’s success.

Review of request

The department of engineering services reviewed possible traffic calming measures for Main Street North and used several reference manuals, bylaws, and acts to support its task, director Bevan Harlton explained.

The review determined that Main Street North is an arterial roadway that is the main traffic thoroughfare within the city, so speeds and traffic volumes are higher on these roads. It also helps move large amounts of traffic, emergency vehicles and public transit to collector roadways. 

The department considered site-specific measures to slow traffic, such as narrowing the road, establishing separate bike lanes, adding parking lanes, creating curb extensions, and adding speed bumps and humps, Harlton said. 

City hall already uses the first four measures, he pointed out, while it does not use the last two measures because of the nature of Main Street. 

Meanwhile, the Moose Jaw Police Service said that the two main causes of accidents are distracted driving and situations where motorists suffer a medical emergency and cause an accident, Harlton said. Therefore, the police did not provide an opinion about reducing the speed limit. 

The engineering department recommends against reducing the speed limit because the downtown street master plan has not yet been developed, he continued. To implement any measures on Main Street North could jeopardize future downtown plans. 

Harlton added that his department could look at potential traffic calming measures when working on the next phase of the cast iron program.

Council discussion

Most people follow the speed limit on Main Street, but the bigger issue is pedestrians attempting to cross the street and vehicles not slowing down, said Coun. Doug Blanc. He thought if the problem was speeding, the police should handle that.

Mayor Clive Tolley recalled having supper outside The Mad Greek restaurant and watching motorists speed to climb the hill. He thought that made it difficult to enjoy the meal.

“We got exhaust, noise and dirt. It just wasn’t very pleasant. So, I can understand where this (request) is coming from,” he said, noting he wanted more consultation with the downtown group before making changes.

“I do believe we need 40 km/h in that area,” Tolley added. “But it needs to be based on statistics and information and not just our inklings.”

Coun. Dawn Luhning agreed with consulting with the downtown group, adding, “It is a speedway from The Mad Greek up Main Street. And it can be (a speedway) going south too.”

SGI provides funding to install speed indicator signs that remind motorists to drive 50 km/h, which could be a short-term option, said Coun. Crystal Froese. Meanwhile, she thought there should be comprehensive consultations with businesses about possible changes.
Froese was also concerned about pedestrian safety near Oxford and Main Street, especially high school students who used restaurants in that area at lunch. 

Revenue generated from the traffic camera on Highway 1 funds SGI’s traffic safety program, so Moose Jaw could receive funding for related projects, said city manager Jim Puffalt. He thought acquiring more data through radar units could help city hall make better science-based decisions.

The next regular council meeting is Monday, Feb. 14.