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Edmonton officials question UCP photo radar ban in most 40 km zones

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EDMONTON -

New provincial rules that ban photo radar in most 40 km/h zones are not sitting well with some Edmonton officials.

The UCP announced changes on Wednesday that the minister said will stop "fishing holes and speed traps."

They will also eliminate about 120 commonly-used enforcement sites on Edmonton residential roads.

"I am a little troubled about a couple of the changes," said Ward Nakota Isga Councillor Andrew Knack.

"The suggestion you shouldn’t be able to use it on streets under 50 km/h goes against what we hear from the public."

In September, city council reduced Edmonton's default speed limit from 50 km/h to 40 km/h, affecting most of the residential roads in the city.

Knack said neighbourhoods are where most of his constituents want slower traffic and more police enforcement, not less.

"The public is often the one to say, 'I'd rather see it in communities'...I'm a little troubled that a change like that would happen without proper engagement," he said.

In a news conference, Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney said the UCP's new rules will increase transparency and accountability.

Photo radar will still be allowed in zones under 50 km/h but only in school, playground or construction zones, and only if there are people present at the time.

"I have looked at the data and I know that photo radar does enhance safety outcomes based on what we know," Sawhney said.

The minister said municipalities will be required to provide data and rationale for why automated enforcement is being used in a particular place, but she didn't specifically explain why 40 km/h zones are out.

'FIRST THAT WE'RE HEARING OF THIS PIECE'

Edmonton's Director of Safe Mobility said she wasn't sure why the province brought that rule in either, and claimed it wasn't part of 2020 provincial consultations.

"This is the first that we're hearing of this piece in particular," Jessica Lamarre said Wednesday.

"Automated enforcement is an important tool in helping keep people safe in those spaces, and across the city."

Lamarre said the city would be conducting a review of its policies, and will be forced to look at other options on residential roads when the ban comes into effect in April 2022.

In-person police enforcement, expanding a safe-crossings program and traffic-calming infrastructure were possibilities, she said.

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said he still needs to review the new rules, but he believes most Edmontonians still want photo radar in the city.

"At the end of the day we want our kids and our community to feel safe, and that's why we use this tool," Sohi said.

Knack said the city has data that proves its efforts to improve road safety, including using photo radar in neighbourhoods, are working.

"There has been a measurable change in people's safety on our streets over the years because of all of the tools we've been using," he said, adding he's happy the province is promising to use a data-based approach going forward.

Photo radar generated about $100 million in Edmonton in 2020. The city and the province split that revenue with some of it then directed to policing and victims services.

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