Solving Spencer’s speed problem

August 18, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Todd Taylor

Over the past year, no street in Orangeville has changed its traffic patterns more than Spencer Avenue. Earlier this year, the east end of Spencer was opened up to Riddell. The opening of the street was always a part of the long-term plan. It is of no surprise to the residents on Spencer that the road is now a convenient throughway. Nor would anyone be amazed that traffic has increased. What is astonishing is the way in which the route is now treated like a mini-speedway.

I think anytime an individual decides that there is a problem within the community they live, there are immediate decisions that must be made. The most pressing decision is simply “should I get involved with the solution to this issue?” I often see people concerned about an issue via local social media outlets. Often times folks simply offer negative comments online with the hope that someone will respond and solve. I decided that the Settlers Creek traffic problem bothered me enough that I should indeed act. I am pleased to share that I have learned much through this process and my interactions with the police, town staff, and council were all positive experiences.

My first phone call was to Orangeville’s very knowledgeable Director of Public Works, Doug Jones. I wanted Mr. Jones’ help to fully understand what could be done to help make the issues in Settlers Creek more palatable. Mr. Jones shared with me that my phone call was “not an uncommon concern”. There are many areas in town that have traffic concerns currently, including Elizabeth Street, Madison Avenue, and First/Fead Streets. As I talked further with Mr. Jones, I quickly realized that if Public Works acted on every traffic concern our town would have traffic signs at every intersection. The question becomes “what can be done that is reasonable?” Most of us in town have never had formal training on traffic calming, yet the vast majority would certainly have opinions on how to make things better. Solutions that have been offered include additional stop signs, speed bumps, narrowing the streets in certain spots, reducing the speed limit to 40 km/h, and increased police presence.

Doug Jones patiently took the time to further educate me on the role of stop signs. According to the Highway Traffic Act, four-way stops are for roads that have similar traffic patterns. In the case of Settlers Creek, Spencer Avenue may actually support stop signs based on its number of cars. The issue is that the intersecting streets (Sherwood and Abbey) do not have enough traffic on them to support a stop sign. Imagine yourself travelling on a road that has a four-way stop with no traffic coming the other way. The human condition simply says that eventually the vast majority of drivers will simply roll through the stop sign and not solve the excessive speed issue. Doug Jones further shared that the town needs through streets to allow traffic to move at a reasonable pace. No one (myself included) wants to stop at every intersection as they drive through town. Spencer Avenue needs to do its part as a through street.

I asked Mr. Jones about the installation of speed bumps. I have since learned that speed bumps do indeed slow people down. Unfortunately, they also inhibit our police, fire, and ambulance services. In addition, any speed bumps installed would need to be removed each winter. The high volume of snow that Orangeville receives means that roadways must be free to plough November through April each year. Lastly, in a town under the thumb of oppressive taxes, we should all be aware that the cost of one speed bump is an additional $1,000.

If speed bumps will not solve the issue, then perhaps making the entire street a 40 km/h zone would be palatable? Mr. Jones shared that in order to move traffic at a reasonable pace, through streets such as Spencer should be 50 km/h. In front of Spencer Avenue Public School, there already are signs that clearly state a speed limit of 40 km/h. There are no other signs on the street that state a speed limit. This has caused confusion. Is the speed limit on Spencer 40 or 50 km/h? Orangeville Police Staff Sergeant Lindsay White has since worked with the town to ensure that another sign is installed identifying that a motorist is leaving the 40 km/h zone.  Personally, I believe the solution is to make the entire street a community safety zone with an enforced speed of 40 km/h. Mr. Jones advised me that the only way to implement this change would be to have town council address the issue at a future meeting.

I decided to contact Councillor Scott Wilson to ensure that I fully understood what steps I would need to take to have the speed on Spencer Avenue addressed. The ever-helpful Councilor returned my query the same day. I would simply need to send a letter or delegation (or petition) to council asking that they consider changing the street’s speed limit. Town staff (led by Doug Jones) would then be asked to provide a report and recommendation.

In the meantime, Staff Sergeant Dan Maloney has been quite helpful with increasing police presence in the area.  The information received from the portable speed radar units and the police themselves will be reviewed by the town. Chief Wayne Kalinski took time out of his busy schedule to personally call me and share the actions police have taken. Chief Kalinski stated that 20 charges of speeding were laid over a short period of time.

Soon the new school year will be upon us. It would be a shame to have something devastating happen to a young person walking to school. In the next few months, we may have a more permanent solution for the area. In the meantime, please slow down.

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