Speed limit going up on Highway 402 as part of pilot project

The province announced a pilot project Friday morning that will see speed limits increase to 110 km/h on portions of Ontario's 400-series highways.

The first locations to test out the higher limit will be Highway 402 from London to Sarnia, the Queen Elizabeth Way from St. Catharines to Hamilton and Highway 417 from Ottawa to the Ontario/Quebec border.

The pilot project will start in mid-September and run for two years. A fourth location in northern Ontario is still to be announced.

Ontario Minister of Transportation Jeff Yurek made the announcement at Highway 402 and Longwoods Road, saying the change will improve traffic flow and safety.

He says the province will monitor the effectiveness of the pilot, which brings the limit in line with other jurisdictions.

Consultations will also begin next week with road safety partners as part of the process before a permanent decision is made.

The speed limit on the 400-series highways, including Highway 401 -- part of which is considered the busiest highway in North America -- is 100 km/h, while other provincial highways range between 80 and 90 km/h.

According to Bob Nichols, a spokesman for the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, the original limit on highways 400, 401, 417 and the Queen Elizabeth Way was 70 miles per hour (113 km/h), but that was lowered in 1975 in response to the oil crisis.

The fact that it hasn't been raised again in the more than 40 years since then -- despite the end of the oil embargo and improvements to vehicle safety and fuel efficiency --has led to calls for change.

Chris Klimek, who founded the advocacy campaign Stop 100 eight years ago, said the current limit turns almost every driver in Ontario into a law-breaker.

Yurek acknowledged last week that the 400-series highways are designed to handle traffic at 120 km/h.

Other safety measures

In addition to the speed limit change, Yurek says the province is also moving forward with several other initiatives to improve road safety.

They include; a new offence for driving instructors with any alcohol in their system, a new offence for driving slowly in the left/fast lane, tougher rules for those who pass school buses with stop arms activated, allowing motorcycles to use high-occupancy lanes and stronger laws to protect tow truck drivers.

--With files from The Canadian Press