Ontario is moving forward with a pilot project that will raise the posted speed limit on stretches of certain 400-series highways to 110 km/h, beginning in September.
The two-year project will be tested on: Hwy. 402 from London to Sarnia; the QEW from St. Catharines to Hamilton; the Hwy. 417 from Ottawa to the Quebec border; and an undetermined route in northern Ontario. Transport Minister Jeff Yurek made the announcement this morning alongside safety advocates at a parking lot just off the 402 near London.
The increased speed limits will not apply to trucks, which must continue to be governed at 105 km/h, Yurek said.
“There are no plans to change speed limiters for large trucks,” MTO spokesman Bob Nichols confirmed to our affiliate website Trucknews.com. The implementation of the speed limiter program was a joint initiative between Ontario and Quebec. Both provinces implemented the truck speed limiter program at the same time with the speed set at 105 km/h; any change to the program would move Ontario away from this harmonized approach.
The pilot project is part of the Getting Ontario Moving Act, and Yurek said it should increase traffic flows without affecting safety.
“Public safety on our roads and highways is our number one priority,” he said.
And he had safety advocates there to support the announcement, including Brian Patterson of the Ontario Safety League.
“I’m happy to say that the speed limit change does not affect us at all, in the sense that it meets the safety requirements, the science requirements and the engineering requirements,” he said.
Yurek said the stunt driving law, which involves a licence suspension and vehicle impounding, will continue to be set at 150 km/h. Over the two years of the pilot, results will be studied to ensure safety isn’t compromised, Yurek said.
Elliott Silverstein of the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), dubbed the project “a measured approach and ideal way to gradually explore the subject of raise speed limits.”
Yurek does not expect the raised speed limits to increase risky driving behaviors.
“I think traffic will be a little bit faster than what is going on now,” he said, but he said most drivers will continue driving at the speed they’re comfortable with.
The routes selected for the pilot were chosen because they were well engineered with properly spaced interchanges, Yurek said, adding the higher limit puts Ontario in line with most other provinces, where the speed limit is 110 km/h. B.C. recently raised speed limits, then reversed the decision, but Patterson said that’s because the change was not well understood by the public.
Other aspects of the legislation will target unsafe driving, including targeting drivers who drive slowly in the left lane.
Mike Millian, head of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada, took a dim view of the announcement.
“The PMTC is vehemently opposed to raising the speed limit on Ontario’s 400-series highways,” he told Trucknews.com when word of the increase first appeared in the news. “We see no benefit to this even being considered. On most 400-series highways, let’s be honest, most people are already doing well above the limit. It is pretty well understood you can drive 115 to 120 km/h on these highways in Ontario and not even get looked at. We need to find ways to better enforce the limits we already have, not raise the current ones.”
Millian said the PMTC would like to see photo radar brought back in speed-sensitive areas such as construction zones, but Yurek said that isn’t being considered.
“We always look forward to working with our jurisdiction partners, and are looking forward to positive discussions with Minister Yurek’s office on ways we can best affect road safety interests for all of the motoring public, including those of our members who make their living rolling up and down the highway,” Millian said.