Despite ecological concerns raised by some community members, Saskatoon city council approved speed limit increases through and around the Northeast Swale.
In a 6-5 decision, council voted in favour of raising the speed limit from 50 to 60 km/h on McOrmond Drive through the swale.
Councillors Darren Hill, Ann Iwanchuk, Troy Davies, Randy Donauer, Bev Dubois and Zach Jeffries voted to bump up speeds through the swale on McOrmond.
The affected section of McOrmond stretches south to Fedoruk Drive. Councillors also voted to raise the speed limit from 50 to 60 km/h for a section of Central Avenue bordering the swale.
The city’s transportation committee previously voted against raising the speed limit through the swale and on Central Avenue, only endorsing the stretch of McOrmond between Fedoruk and the beginning of the swale.
McOrmond Drive still has a 70 km/h speed limit west of Central Avenue and across the Chief Mistawasis Bridge.
The move comes after complaints about low and inconsistent speeds for commuters who use the Chief Mistawasis Bridge. More than 3,000 people have signed one councillor’s petition to raise the speed limit.
The speed increase is feasible “from an engineering perspective,” according to a city report.
Council heard presentations against the change, including from Candace Savage of Wild About Saskatoon.
“Just because something is possible, it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea,” Savage said during the teleconference meeting.
Savage said the city has consistently offered its support for the swale, but also allowed the construction of roads through the ecologically sensitive area.
“The reduced speed limits on the swale crossing are an attempt to reduce the damage caused by these roads,” Savage said.
Council also received a letter from Meewasin board chair Colin Tennent, who wrote “saving a few seconds of commuting time does not outweigh the potential damage to this critical habitat.”
Between Oct. 1, 2018 and Oct. 31, 2019, there were 20 wildlife collisions in the area causing animal death, according to city administration.
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