Need for speed: UCP MLA wants to see 120 km/h speed limit on some Alberta highways

·2 min read
If passed, Bill 213 would raise the maximum speed on all non-urban, divided highways — including Highways 1, 2, 3, 4, 16 and 43.  (Google Street View - image credit)
If passed, Bill 213 would raise the maximum speed on all non-urban, divided highways — including Highways 1, 2, 3, 4, 16 and 43. (Google Street View - image credit)

A government MLA wants to increase the speed limit on Alberta divided highways to 120 km/h because he believes it will make the roads safer.

Spruce Grove-Stony Plain MLA Searle Turton introduced a private member's bill in the legislature on Wednesday.

If passed, Bill 213 would raise the maximum speed on all non-urban, divided highways — including Highways 1, 2, 3, 4, 16 and 43 — from the current 110 km/h to 120.

Turton believes the higher speed limit makes sense because of Alberta's long stretches of mostly empty highways.

"It seems you can see a gopher from about 25 kilometres away," Turton told CBC's Edmonton AM on Friday.

"And the question always seems to come up in everyone's mind, why am I traveling this speed?"

Turton said he researched other jurisdictions in Canada and in the U.S. He said most people are driving slower than the speed limit the highways are designed for, while others are often speeding, zigzagging in and out of traffic.

"So what I'm trying to do is hopefully tighten up the range that most drivers are driving down the highway and which will make our highways a little bit safer," he said.

Alberta wouldn't be the first province to raise speed limits on its highways.

In 2014, British Columbia raised limits on 33 sections of highway in 2014 by 10 km/h. However, after a number of serious and fatal crashes, the government rolled the speed limit back to 110 km/h on 15 sections.

B.C.'s Coquihalla Highway between Hope and Kamloops is the only highway in Canada where the speed limit remains at 120 km/h.

Turton said because B.C. is mostly mountainous with steep terrain, it makes sense to keep the speed limits low on most highways.

But Alberta is different, he said.

"Alberta is mostly prairie. We have a very different transportation environment here in the province," he said.

However, he added if concerns do arise, a key part of the bill would continue to grant the transportation minister the ability to lower the speed limit if needed.

He said if the bill passes, there would be a two-year period for engineers to ensure the highways can handle the increased speeds.

And if not, that's when a minister can step in and reverse the order.