Lions ask Northeast Town council to help lower highway speed limit, council will petition MTO

Swing Bridge Little Current

LITTLE CURRENT—Northeast Town council received a letter from Little Current Lions Club President Bruce Burnett asking council to consider petitioning the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) to lower the speed limit on the north side of the bridge to 50 km/h. The current speed is 80 km/h with a sudden reduction in speed to 20 km/h on the bridge.

The reason is twofold: To enable the Lions Club to once again hold a voluntary toll on the north side of the bridge (under the Highway Traffic Act, fundraising endeavours cannot be held on highways with speeds greater than 80 km/h) during Haweater Weekend; and as a matter of safety.

Councillor Michael Erskine spoke in favour of the lowering of the speed limit, saying he recalled the days of the voluntary toll and what a boon it was to the club and their good works in the community.

“Quite frankly,” Councillor Erskine continued, “approaching the bridge from 80 km/h to 20 km/h, there should be a reduction of speed. It’s a safety issue, but these funds go right back to the community. It’s a win-win and a chance to give back to the community.”

Councillor Jim Ferguson asked Mr. Williamson if there was any reason to not support it.

Mr. Williamson replied that while it’s the discretion of council, he would advise against it because of safety issues involving a voluntary toll and noting problems that have arisen with other bridge tolls held in the past (not involving the Lions Club).

“I’m not going to support this,” said Councillor Bill Koehler. “I used to get calls at home from people not liking being approached. I know where Bruce is coming from, but it’s about safety.”

Councillor Jim Ferguson said he believed speed reduction was a good idea. “If it was 50 km/h on that bend (by Joly’s) it might start to slow people down. Eighty (km/h) to 20 (km/h) is pretty drastic.”

Councillor Ferguson made a motion to petition the MTO to lower the speed limit to 50 km/h, seconded by Councillor Erskine.

Councillor Bill Koehler again expressed his concern.

In a recorded vote Councillors Erskine, Dawn Orr, Ferguson, Bruce Wood and Mayor Al MacNevin voted in favour. Councillors Koehler, Barb Baker and Laurie Cook voted against. Councillor Al Boyd abstained from voting citing a conflict of interest.

“As Councillor Erskine said, this is a win-win situation for both the Lions Club and the safety of Islanders and those coming to Manitoulin to enjoy themselves,” said Mr. Burnett when contacted for comment following the meeting.