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Toronto city council approves $80-million road safety plan

Plan would lower speed limits on a number of roads, including most major streets in the downtown core.

Toronto city council has approved a five-year, $80-million road safety plan — a first for the city.

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Toronto city council has approved a five-year, $80-million road safety plan — a first for the city.

Toronto took a step towards fixing its deadly streets Thursday, as council approved an expanded version of the city’s first-ever road safety plan.

The five-year, $80-million plan includes a number of engineering, enforcement and education measures geared towards reducing fatalities and serious injuries on our roads.

Among other things, the plan would lower speed limits on a number of roads, including most major roads in the downtown core. It would also establish pedestrian and senior safety zones where intersections, signal timings and signage will be altered with safety in mind.

Debate on the council floor largely focused on the scale of the plan, as councillors contrasted the targeted, “data-driven” interventions recommended by transportation manager Stephen Buckley with more ambitious and sweeping changes occurring in other jurisdictions.

For example, Toronto’s plan lowers speeds on roads where serious collisions have already occurred, while New York’s Vision Zero plan saw default speeds reduced city-wide.

However, a number of councillors asked for – and were granted – further speed limits in their respective wards.

The budget for the original plan was $68 million – $40 million of which was new spending – but a subsequent staff report recommended increasing funding to expand the plan.

“From the beginning, this plan had great bones, but the scale and scope were not enough,” said Coun. Jaye Robinson, chair of the public works committee.

Robinson said the new money would allow the city to be “very aggressive” in tackling road safety.

The expanded plan did not satisfy all councillors, including Kristyn Wong-Tam who moved a motion to have the five-year timeline ramped up to two years. The motion failed, but a similar motion by Coun. Mary-Margaret McMahon asking staff to assess the cost of accelerating the plan, passed.

Texting and walking made illegal?

If Coun. Frances Nunziata gets her way, it could soon become illegal to text and walk in Toronto.

During debate over Toronto’s new road safety plan, the Ward 11 councillor moved a motion requesting city council to ask the province to amend the Highway Traffic Act in order to make it illegal for pedestrians to use their phones while crossing the street.

“If you’re texting and driving, or texting and walking … it’s the same,” Nunziata said.

The motion passed 26-15, prompting laughter and boos from the council floor.

“It’s a very serious motion,” Nunziata shot back.

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