The City of Ottawa’s long-awaited photo radar pilot is now delayed until next spring because of an unexpected condition attached to the province’s new regulations for installing automated speed enforcement cameras on municipal roads, the transportation committee heard on Wednesday.
The new regulations went into effect on Dec. 1 and, according to Ottawa city staff, the Ontario government is demanding the municipality first install signs, for a period of 90 days, warning that photo radar is on the way before deploying the new speed cameras.
The three-month warning period surprised staff, who had planned to begin rotating four photo radar cameras across eight new community safety zones – located near a dozen schools – this month.
The city is now looking at a launch sometime in March, said Krista Tanaka, program manager at the city’s road safety and traffic investigations branch.
The 90-day period isn’t spelled out in the regulations but it’s included in the agreement with the province that the city had to sign on automated speed enforcement, Tanaka told reporters.
Tanaka said the city can’t manufacture the warning signs and put them in the ground until it receives the final design from Ontario’s ministry of transportation (MTO).
Once the 90 days are up, the city will have to install different, permanent signs at or “immediately before” the sites where photo radar will be in use, according to city staff. The signs will have to be larger and display a different design than anticipated, Tanaka said.
Like with the community safety zone signs, Ottawa will have to put up two signs – one in English and one in French.
Global News has asked MTO why it decided to attach a 90-day warning period to its photo radar regulations and will update this story if and when a response is received.
Provincial law currently allows the use of photo radar in designated community safety zones but Ontario municipalities had been waiting on the province to finish and approve the relevant regulations before they could actually use the cameras.
Under the Highway Traffic Act, the fines for speeding and careless driving in a community safety zone are doubled. On Monday, a spokesperson for Ontario’s associate transportation minister told Global News the amounts of the fines will vary depending on the speed of the vehicle.
The City of Ottawa plans on using revenue from the photo radar program to help fund its proposed new road safety action plan for 2020-2024.
Phil Landry, the city’s director of traffic services, said staff intend to report back on the pilot in the fall.
On Nov. 27, Ottawa city council green-lit the following eight new community safety zones. They went into effect at the end of November, meaning offending drivers can be ticketed under the stricter regime if caught by a police officer.
Here is what the French-language automated speed enforcement signs will have to look like.
—With a file from Nick Westoll