Toronto, ON — Ontario will be raising speed limits to 110 kilometres an hour on sections of three 400-series highways as part of a pilot program that could lead to limits being increased across the province.
Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek, who announced the pilot Friday, said the government will also be holding consultations on the project that’s set to begin in mid-September.
“Our government believes that increasing speed limits will bring posted limits in line with other jurisdictions and go along with how people currently are driving,” he said. “The pilot is a first step as a move forward to gather information for a permanent decision.”
The province’s current maximum speed limit is 100 kilometres an hour on 400-series highways.
The pilot will run on Highway 402 between London and Sarnia, the Queen Elizabeth Way between Hamilton to St. Catharines, and Highway 417 from Ottawa to the Ontario-Quebec border.
An additional stretch of highway in Northern Ontario that has not yet been identified will also be part of the program.
Yurek said the province’s street-racing rules — which apply at speeds greater than 150 kilometres an hour — will remain the same.
“This pilot, along with consultations, will allow the province to monitor changes in average speed, travel volumes, and other factors to determine the effects of an increased posted speed limit in the pilot areas,” he said.
Yurek, who has said the 400-series highways can safely handle traffic at 120 kilometres per hour, noted that safety will be the priority of the project.
The minister said he doesn’t think increasing the speed limit will encourage drivers to boost their speed beyond the posted limit, but police will be watching for dangerous drivers.
“Law enforcement have the tools, and we’re going to be supportive of them then enforcing the proper speed limits,” he said.
The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police has said they are eager to participate in the government’s consultations, noting that raising limits has to keep public safety, not driver convenience, top of mind.
NDP transportation and highways critic Jennifer French said the government is increasing highway speed limits at the same time that it’s cutting the Ontario Provincial Police budget by $46 million.
“People rely on OPP officers to monitor our highways, and to stop people who drive dangerously and put everyone at risk,” French said in a statement. “With one hand, the Ford government is slashing the OPP budget for highway safety enforcement, and with the other, it is raising speed limits. This is an unbalanced approach.”
Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said he supports an “evidence-based” review of highway speed limits. Premier Doug Ford continues to chase policies that grab headlines but don’t address pressing issues, he added.
“Such a review must be driven be experts and not by Doug Ford’s need for immediate gratification,” he said in a statement. “These are some of the busiest highways in North America, and so an investigation into the possibility of raising speed limits could be worthwhile, particularly if we can learn from the experiences of other jurisdictions.”
Six other provinces currently have posted speed limits of at least 110 kilometres per hour on some of their highways.
Alberta introduced a 110 kilometre per hour speed limit on some highways in 1993, Nova Scotia made a similar move in 1997 and New Brunswick followed in 2001.
Certain divided multi-lane highways in British Columbia have speed limits of 120 km/hr — the highest permitted speeds in the country.