Firetrucks on a shutdown Red Hill Valley Parkway

Scott Gardner,The Hamilton Spectator
The Red Hill Creek Expressway has seen its share of police calls, many related to speeding.

In response to growing public concerns about excessive speeding and dangerous driving, Hamilton police are boosting enforcement on the Red Hill and Lincoln Alexander parkways.

“We do not have the capacity to dedicate resources to it, but we will put in place a project with special attention, prioritizing enforcement,” Chief Glenn De Caire told police board members.

According to De Caire, police average about 700 service calls and issue between 1,500 to 1,700 tickets annually on the Red Hill and Linc.

He was responding to concerns raised by the board over a recent consultant’s safety report to city council claiming that about 500 vehicles per day travel faster than 140 km/h on the Red Hill, which has a 90 km/h speed limit.

Though police are improvising more enforcement in the short term, the board directed De Caire to report back in January with a detailed review and plan for dealing with the issue long-term.

But that didn’t prevent some members from expressing skepticism about the statistics.

Board chair and Ancaster Coun. Lloyd Ferguson doesn’t believe the consultant’s speed findings.

“I really want to personally drill down into those numbers that there’s 500 vehicles travelling over 140 kilometres each and every day out there,” Ferguson said after Friday’s board meeting.

“I drove it yesterday at noon and the highest I could get to was 109 because you simply catch up to the people in front of you.”

Ferguson has relayed “reams of data” from the consultant’s report to police for analysis.

He says he was “surprised” to discover the bulk of the alleged speeding happens between 6 a.m. and noon and 3 p.m. and 9 p.m.

“The highway is plugged during that period of time. I just want to make sure that we’re getting the right information. I don’t want to fly by the seat of my pants. I want it to be based on science.”

Ferguson also raised questions about the technology the consultant used to measure speeds.

“Apparently it was not radar. It was a device they lay on the pavement. How accurate is that?”

Fellow board member Coun. Terry Whitehead also expressed skepticism about the data, but noted the public expects police to respond to these kinds of safety concerns.

To their credit, that’s exactly what De Caire and the board are doing through stopgap stepped up enforcement and a detailed review.

What remains unclear, however, is whether there will be a long-term financial impact.

De Caire argues that because of the service’s stretched capacity, he needs to hire six new officers at an annualized cost of about $830,000 in order to permanently dedicate resources to the highways.

Problem is, that pushes his proposed 2016 budget increase up to 3.35 per cent from 2.79 per cent.

The board unanimously approved the 2.79 per cent Friday and left the door open for future discussion on the additional increase pending the results of De Caire’s January report.

Whether or not expanded enforcement on the Red Hill and Linc can be achieved within the existing budget or requires additional money could, as Ferguson notes, spark a “spirited debate.”

Meanwhile, city council has already approved spending up to $815,000 on short-term fixes, such as new markings and warning signs, as well as asking the province for permission to use photo radar.

Though the province seems cool about reinstating photo radar, council is hoping that an NDP private members’ bill that would give municipalities the power to use cameras in construction and designated safety zones will provide the necessary elbow room.

Trouble is, though the proposed Safer Roads and Safer Communities Act has gone through first reading, only a very small percentage of private members’ bills ever become law.

That suggests a long wait and slim chances ahead. Unless, of course, regional cabinet minister Ted McMeekin starts pulling strings.

But for that to happen, councillors and the public will need to do some serious ear-bending.

Source: The Hamilton Spectator