Cars on the Red Hill Valley Parkway.

Spectator file photo
Hundreds of cars race along the Red Hill Valley Parkway each day at speeds topping 140 km/h, says a consultant’s report.

City councillors believe photo radar would be the most effective way to curb speed demons on Hamilton’s crash-prone parkways.

The controversial tool is “probably the best option” to brake “moronic” speeders, Coun. Chad Collins said Monday.

The return of photo radar — introduced by Bob Rae in 1994 and axed by successor Mike Harris a year later — would require provincial approval.

But reprising the measure, criticized as an intrusive cash grab by some, isn’t on the Ontario government’s agenda.

“With respect to photo radar, the ministry has n‎o plans to reintroduce speed cameras in Ontario,” Ministry of Transportation spokesperson Bob Nichols said in an email to The Spectator.

Instead, the ministry is “focusing on reducing speeding through a combination of strategies, including legislation, public education and support for enforcement efforts of Ontario’s police services.”

Coun. Sam Merulla pushed for the photo radar initiative, noting red-light cameras have worked in Hamilton.

The public works committee’s call to have staff study the feasibility of bringing back photo radar comes after a consultant’s report concluded poor driving is the cause of most crashes on the Red Hill Valley Parkway.

The study found an average of more than 500 vehicles a day drive faster than 140 kilometres an hour on the highway. The speed limit is 90 km/h.

But of 641 collisions on the Lincoln M. Alexander Parkway since 1997, 128, or 20 per cent, were median-related. Half of those, however, were caused by rear-ending or side-swiping.

On Monday, councillors backed $815,000 in short-term fixes such as oversized speed limit signs, speed feedback signs, vegetation trimming and upgraded guide rail treatments.

Longer-term safety measures, including median barriers on both parkways, are ball parked at about $11.3 million over six years.

But councillors also asked whether police were able to step up patrols on city highways to crack down on dangerous drivers.

Hamilton Insp. Will Mason said staffing limitations make it impossible to dedicate officers solely to the Red Hill.

For 2016, police are seeking a 2.79 budget bump, but none of that is for full-time highway patrols, noted police board chair Lloyd Ferguson.

Driving behaviour has to change, but a dedicated parkway police unit would come with a “fairly significant cost,” said Coun. Terry Whitehead.

Photo radar, however, could do the job by hitting drivers “where it hurts” — the pocketbook, he added.

Education and signage aren’t enough to convince stunt drivers to slow down, Coun. Tom Jackson argued.

Photo radar was seen by some as a cash cow, but attitudes have changed in 20 years, he said.

“If (drivers) are being responsible and honest, they have nothing to worry about.”

Improving lighting on the Red Hill is another safety measure that requires a provincial nod.

Staff said environmental approvals would have to be re-examined, a potentially long and costly process.

A joint stewardship board that included the Haudenosaunee agreed that lighting would be limited to intersections and on/off ramps on the Red Hill, which opened seven years ago.

Collins asked that staff explore what it would take to improve lighting, noting seniors are afraid to drive on the Red Hill after dark and during bad weather.

Council must ratify the public works committee’s decision Wednesday.

Source: The Hamilton Spectator