THE Ford government claimed last week that its proposal to increase speed limits on some of the province’s major highways is garnering “wide public support,” but the effort being put into this “pilot project” seems both counterintuitive and a waste of time.
We all have to get to work, but we also have to breathe the air; even the legions of unnamed “people” who support Premier Doug Ford, or so he claims, must take a deep breath once in a while. So when it comes to practical ways of protecting the environment and staving off climate change, surely the least we can do is limit the amount of carbon and noxious gases we emit.
Does Ford think about this? Our guess is probably not. The premier thought it was OK to cut the budgets at provincial health units, until the coronavirus pandemic forced him to reverse those cuts, which were short-sighted in the first place. Anyone who thought otherwise, is frankly, dumb as a stump.
Under the province’s three pilot projects that got underway last year on sections of 400-series routes, speed limits were hiked to 110 km/h from 100 km/h. Some drivers who already tooled along at 120 km/h (when the speed limit was still 100 km/h) undoubtedly felt they would be ignored by police if they pushed it to 130 km/h or greater. The other likely result is that it encouraged more motorists to set the cruise control at 120 km/h.
Northern Ontario is also to get a pilot project, but the province is staying mum on the location until late spring.
Here’s what Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney had to say last week: “The increased speed limit pilot is just one way that our government is improving our transportation network — bringing it in line with other jurisdictions to get people where they need to go when they want to get there.”
What? Ontarians weren’t getting to work before? While one ponders the banality of Mulroney’s statement, one might also consider what Natural Resources Canada said on the same subject as recently as October.
“At 120 km/h, a vehicle uses about 20 per cent more fuel than at 100 km/h. On a 25-kilometre trip, this spike in speed — and fuel consumption — would cut just two minutes from travel time.”
So there we have it: a lousy two minutes. That’s all we gain, in exchange for putting even more smog-creating carbon into air that all of us must breathe. That is just a very poor tradeoff, Mr. Ford. It’s like using taxpayer dollars to promote buck-a-beer, when the province is already beset with alcoholism and other addictions. Come to think of it, we also needed blue licence plates as much as a bull moose needs a paint-job.
The tragedy of the government’s desire to increase speed limits is that it comes at a time when climate change is top of mind, and that climate researchers, for many, many decades, have flagged the connection between excessive speed and air pollution.
The four-lane route on Highway 11-17 between Thunder Bay and the Flying J truck stop currently has a maximum speed of 90 km/h. Some think it should be hiked to 100 km/h, which would be plenty fast enough.
Those who depart the truck stop and keep the speedometer at 100 km/h would get to Thunder Bay a few minutes later than motorists who drove faster. Perhaps if the speedsters also slowed down, they might use the extra travel time to ponder other easy ways to protect the environment, like taking public transit.