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Petition protests speed limit changes on Fourth Street

Vote delayed to next meeting

An Estevan resident is hoping some grassroots political action will help city council make up its mind about speed limit changes on Fourth Street.Trent Knobel recently began circulating a petition that calls for the members of council to vote against lowering the speed limit on a section of Fourth from 50 kilometres an hour to 40 km.A bylaw proposing the change in speed limits was initially introduced at the July 26 regular meeting of council. Under the proposal, the speed limit would be lowered on the section of Fourth Street from 14th Avenue to Souris Avenue. During the meeting, Councillor Chris Istace, who has been one of the proponents of the change, said the City wants to make the downtown core a more pedestrian friendly area and feels lowering the speed limit, along with other changes such as mid-block crosswalks and a proposed park, will help accomplish that goal."(Fourth Street) is not just a high speed corridor to get through our city," said Istace."We need to slow things down. Things are getting busier, a little bit more dangerous, a little bit more reckless and I personally feel in that area, a little slowdown won't hurt. In this area where we have high pedestrian traffic, 40 km isn't out of line. It's only for four or five blocks. Most corridors through other commercial districts are 40 km or less."In a recent interview with The Mercury, Knobel said he feels the drop to 40 km is unnecessary and has spoken to a number of residents who feel the same, prompting him to start the petition."You mention it to people and everybody always sits and talks about it but no one ever does anything about it so I put my foot in my mouth and I started something, I guess," he said. Knobel added his biggest concern about the proposal is that by lowering the speed limit on that particular section of Fourth Street, a number of drivers will begin using side streets such as Third Street or Second Street, which will remain at 50 km. He fears that not only could pedestrians be placed in danger, the increased traffic will do further damage to roads that are already in tough shape."They are just diverting the traffic is all they are going to do," he said. "It may not be a big thing, but it will divert some of the local traffic. Obviously the out of town traffic, it won't affect that, but some of the local traffic may say I am on Third Street already, why bother going to Fourth?" Knobel had the opportunity to voice his concerns and present the petition at Monday's regular meeting of city council. He informed council that in the short time his petition has been in circulation it has been signed by over 1,700 residents who share his concerns about the speed limit change."I don't understand the purpose of lowering the speed limit when you have the residential and other streets still at 50 km," he said to council.Unlike petitions in the past, such as the one against the City's switch to mechanized garbage pickup, Knobel's petition cannot force a referendum since a vote on the bylaw has yet to take place. However, he was hopeful that it would make the members of council think twice before making their decision and appears to have been successful in that regard as when it came time to vote on the bylaw, Councillor Lynn Chipley made a motion to delay a decision so they could look at the petition and get more feedback from the public.Speaking after Monday's meeting, Mayor Gary St. Onge admitted to the media that he has not heard a lot of support for the bylaw and planned to vote against it when a vote is eventually held."I have heard from a lot of people who have e-mailed me and said regardless of the mid-block crosswalks, they would rather see the speed limit stay at 50," said St. Onge."I had at least three women, who have a tendency to look at speeds lower than some of the macho men, and they said if you want to drive 40, move to Weyburn. Council hasn't decided for sure, but they did say tonight that they are thinking of this a little different. I wouldn't want to predict but if I had to I would say it would probably remain at 50."