River Coun. Riley Brockington has $75,000 a year to spend on traffic calming measures in his ward. That won’t cover five speed humps.

Article content

Like all Ottawa city councillors, River Ward Coun. Riley Brockington has $75,000 a year to spend on traffic-calming measures.

That money doesn’t go far when one permanent speed hump — yes, that’s the technical term for a raised area designed to slow down traffic on a public road, “speed hump” — took a $16,000 bite from his budget.

Article content

At $16,000 a pop, Brockington’s budget could buy four speed humps, and maybe a couple of speed boards and some flex stakes — those thin, flexible stakes used to slow down vehicles by narrowing the path of traffic.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Brockington has to be cautious and strategic about how he spends the money. “I get near-infinite requests,” he said.

Is $16,000 for a speed hump too much? Brockington was puzzled about the cost of constructing a speed hump on Trent Street just off Fisher Avenue in Carlington, especially after a representative from a major development company — he declines to name it — told him they built speed humps in new subdivisions for about $4,500 each.

“The costs have been increasing over time, but were around $11,000, now shot up to $16,000,” Brockington said. “It’s too expensive given the budget we receive.”

Brian Beard, president of the Carlington Community Association, said the $16,000 figure shocked him as well. “Big picture, I wonder if there are better ways we could be spending the money for traffic-calming measures.”

Brockington asked city staff to explain the cost difference last November. The report landed this month.

It’s challenging to compare costs between the city and a developer, said the report from the infrastructure and water services department.

Construction costs for speed humps integrated into full reconstruction projects would typically be $8,000 to $12,000, the report said. Other costs include inspection, consultation and traffic management.

Advertisement 3

Article content

The city “bundles” projects together to save money. Infrastructure services have also created a “project light” group focusing on delivering smaller projects more efficiently with more internal resources, the report said.

The Trent Street speed hump was added to a road resurfacing contract. The calming measure project included the speed hump, signage and pavement markings, which were bundled as part of a road resurfacing project.

But this $16,000 hump was built in the eye of a perfect storm for minor construction projects. There was a construction workers’ strike in the summer of 2022, which resulted in labour shortages and supply chain issues. Brockington also believes there’s not a lot of competition to take on small construction jobs when larger contracts are available.

Meanwhile, the report cautioned it was difficult to compare the costs of building speed humps in new developments to those built on existing streets. A developer may not include all costs, such as design, inspection, traffic management operations, co-ordination and consultation.  When new developments are constructed, a traffic-calming feature can be included as part of the overall project. Including speed humps at the time of construction may reduce the overall cost because materials and crews are already onsite.

Advertisement 4

Article content

Speed bumps and speed humps both slow down traffic, but there are differences. Speed bumps have more abrupt edges and are typically on commercial properties such as shopping malls and parking lots. Humps are often found on public streets, with raised areas that are more gradual and less aggressive.

Meanwhile, people driving fast on residential roads is a growing problem, said Alex Cullen, co-chair of the transportation committee of the Federation of Citizens’ Associations of Ottawa. “Communities are always looking for traffic-calming changes to roads. They do more than signage.”

Cullen says he’s not in a position to judge the cost of a speed hump, but it’s important to make sure it’s an apples-to-apples comparison.

“Traffic-calming measures are a growing phenomenon. It makes sense to ask how much each one costs. At $16,000 a crack, you use up your budget pretty quickly.”

There are cheaper solutions to slowing down traffic, although they may not be as effective.

Typically, pavement marking or signage costs less than $500, said Heidi Cousineau, the city’s manager of traffic, safety and mobility. It costs less than $1,500 for thermoplastic symbols and planter boxes. Configurations of multiple flex stakes typically cost between $2,000 and $4,000.

Advertisement 5

Article content

Depending on the type, speed display boards cost between $3,000 and $4,500. The costs for larger engineered traffic calming measures, such as speed humps and medians, can range in the tens of thousands of dollars depending on the site and extent of work required, Cousineau said.

Meanwhile, developers’ voluntary contributions to traffic calming were the subject of bitter debate at city council in January, after Capital Ward Coun Shawn Menard negotiated a $300,000 memorandum of understanding with Katasa Group to be used for traffic calming and affordable housing in Capital Ward, where Katasa is building a highrise tower.

Orléans East-Cumberland Coun. Matthew Luloff was miffed the city had previously turned down an offer from a developer to install speed boards on a busy stretch of road in the east end. Council voted to share the money, with $200,000 going to Community and Social Services for affordable housing and $100,000 for traffic calming across the city. But, in a turn of events, no one got what they wanted.

In the end, Katasa withdrew the entire donation, saying the debate around it “seems to be more political than community-oriented.”

Advertisement 6

Article content

Ward traffic-calming budgets are growing. Brockington recalls getting $40,000 a year when he was first elected in 2014. A few years ago, the budget was increased to include permanent alterations, such as speed humps.

He doesn’t always get speed humps where he wants them. He requested one in the Hunt Club area, but that was rejected because the street was an emergency route.

But speed humps are particularly well-suited in some cases, including the Trent Street example, said John Verbaas, co-chair of the transportation committee of the Federation of Citizens’ Associations of Ottawa.

Trent Street is a residential side street with an intersection at a major road with a traffic light at one end. “Far too frequently in these cases, aggressive drivers on the quiet residential side street look ahead and see that the traffic light is about to go red and they floor it to try and beat the traffic light,” Verbaas said.

“That kind of hard acceleration generates a very uncomfortable level of noise on a quiet residential street. Not to mention the fact that this kind of acceleration is dangerous.”

Advertisement 7

Article content

Several streets have speed humps for this reason, but a lot don’t — and it’s unfair that those locations without them have to suffer with this problem, Verbaas said.

“It would be nice if the city officially recognized these situations as a neighbourhood problem, and put some thought into whether it’s possible to optimize a speed hump construction process to lower the cost level for implementation when being used to solve this particular problem.”

Our website is your destination for up-to-the-minute news, so make sure to bookmark our homepage and sign up for our newsletters so we can keep you informed.

Article content

Source link ottawacitizen.com