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County rejects extending the 60 km/hr zone at Rob Roy

A long, uphill journey to lower speed limits from crest to crest on Grey Rd. 31 through Rob Roy stalled at County Council recently.

The motion had been defeated at the County Committee of the Whole meeting, but was returned to the floor at regular council following a delegation by area resident Peter McGowan.

In the past, Mr. McGowan has brought the issue to Grey Highlands and its Police Services Board.

He is a spokesperson for residents who live near Rob Roy, and those who attend functions at the church or visit the Osprey Museum. He has also spoken with county staff.

In response to the quest to make the roadway safer, the county has placed a flashing light on the speed reduction sign.

Last Wednesday, the motion for extending the 60 km/hour zone failed, as did a follow-up motion for a 70 km/hr zone from the top of the hills to where the 60-zone now begins.

Both motions came from representatives from Grey Highlands. Only five members of county council supported the original motion.

Mr. McGowan deliberately left anecdotes out of his remarks, although he later responded to questions about incidents on the road.

He pointed the county toward what he said was its own policy: decisions about speed reductions are individual. More than the strict engi­neering and statistics must be taken into account.

COUNTY ROADS’ VIEW

When called on by council, Grey engineering manager Trevor Ireton explained why staff opposed the change.

He said that the change did not necessarily meet the engineering requirements. He showed a cross-section view of the hill and spoke of criteria of “sight distance” and driver comfort.

He said that the sight line was more than 300 metres, and a heavy vehicle on a wet road could stop in 225 metres.

Mr. Ireton explained that in general the majority of drivers do drive in a safe and reasonable manner, and the “outliers” are not affected by speed reductions. That is borne out in traffic data from the site, he said.

He said that that 85 percent of vehicles travel 95 km/hr or less, which he said is pretty standard. Also, he said that the narrow road and drop-off calm traffic naturally.

ARGUMENT FOR CHANGE

Because the 60 km sign is part way down the hill, the request made was to extend the 60 km from hill top to hill top.

After two years of pushing for the change, Mr. McGowan had a quick six-point summary:

1. The speeding problem is severe – people travel at an average of 90 km/hr in the 60 zone, and one-third travel above 100 km/hr;

2. Grey Road 13 has narrow shoulders and a steep drop-off, in one place about 20 feet;

3. The sign for slower speed is placed on a downward slope, not seen until the hill is crested;

4. Changing the position to the high points to east and west addresses that problem;

5. The change would only add 18 seconds to the driving time;

6. Moving two signs is a cost-effective path to safety.

When asked for information or statistics, he pointed to an accident where a county plow truck had to swerve to avoid a vehicle that had crossed the line in a situation of high speed and poor traction. Both vehicles were a write-off.

He said he did not want to introduce the element of subjectivity through personal accounts, although he mentioned he had two near-misses himself on a tractor pulling equipment.

LOCAL SUPPORT

County councillor Dane Nielsen introduced the motion to reduce the speed, even though he had voted against it at the Committee of the Whole.

(Motions made in Committee of the Whole must be approved by regular council, and that is where bylaws are passed.)

He said that he changed his mind after going out to look at the road and drive it.

The Grey Highlands deputy mayor said that it goes against a driver’s instinct to slow down going down a slope, when they see the vehicle will have to climb a hill very shortly.

Mayor Paul McQueen also supported the change, saying that another factor is the lack of sight lines at the corner with Pretty River Road, because of an abandoned house close to the road.

Later, a county councillor argued that another county road had about 40 km with the same terrain and so does much of the county.

Another member said that if the change was made then residents would have noise complaints because of trucks applying their brakes.

The Grey County engineering manager provided measured support for a second motion, which was to add a 70 km at the top of the hill leading into the 60-zone.

Mr. Ireton said that although the reduction to 70 km/hr at the top of the hill wasn’t the MTO standard, he could see some merit to the change.

“There is a potential it will help.”

Mr. Ireton said that a speed drop to prepare for a second reduction usually is used when the speed goes down more than 20 km/hr. He also continued to doubt whether speed limits affect the “outliers” who drive at high speeds.

At that point, the second vote was called, and was lost.

M.T. Fernandes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Flesherton Advance