City Council voted 9-2 in favour of setting the speed limit during their Monday meeting, despite hearing environmental concerns over deer and frogs in the area.
Several speakers advocated for protecting an area they call the “Small Swale,” located in the area the bridge was built on the north end of Central Avenue, and called for lowering the speed limit to 50 km/h along McOrmond Drive leading up to the new river crossing.
The “Small Swale” is separate from the Northeast Swale, which is labelled as a protected area by the city.
They expressed worries a higher speed limit would negatively impact the sensitive ecosystem.
“To be blunt, the road should have never been built,” said Meghan Mickelson, a nature photographer.
“We can’t take out the road now, but by having the speed limit 50 km/h throughout the entire Swale, we can at least mitigate some of the impacts the road will cause.”
However, administration said such a low speed limit would require significant traffic enforcement because the road was engineered for a 70 km/h speed limit.
Councillors were given the chance to drive the stretch in a preview last week, and many agreed with administration.
“That section of road feels like it should be driven at 70 km/h,” Coun. Hilary Gough said.
“I don’t think it’s feasible to actually achieve 60 km/h speeds along that stretch.”
A motion put forward by Coun. Sarina Gersher and Coun. Mairin Loewen to lower the speed limit on McOrmond Drive to 60 km/h and raise it to 70 km/h on the Chief Mistawasis Bridge did not reach a vote because the blanket 70 km/h speed limit was approved.
Gersher and Loewen voted against the 70 km/h limit.
While speed limits default to 50 km/h on city roads, city council is mandated to set speed limits separately for bridges.