WATCH: Concerns raised over how cloverleaf design for McKenzie overpass will impact Cuthbert Holmes Park. Should the design be changed? Tess van Straaten reports.
It’s a pocket of green space right off the Trans Canada Highway but a small section of Cuthbert Holmes Park will be carved off to make way for the long-awaited McKenzie overpass — and that has some Saanich councillors and residents up in arms.
“Every time you nip away at it, at this end or the other end, every time you do that it’s irreplaceable,” says Tillicum Gorge Community Association president Rob Wickson. “You can’t take it back. There are other things you can do to fix this intersection.”
In a marathon meeting Monday night that ran into the early hours of Tuesday morning, Saanich Council passed a motion — moved by councillor Vic Derman — to ask the B.C. government to re-consider the partial cloverleaf design announced last month.
“The cloverleaf design is the most intrusive choice by far and probably the most destructive choice,” says Derman. “The cloverleaf will run right on the edge and require a lot of fill and it could just move the congestion to McKenzie.”
Saanich Council vote on McKenzie overpass comes as total shock to transportation minister
The vote by Saanich Council came as a total shock to the B.C.’s transportation minister, who says he’s had about a dozen meetings with Saanich in the last few months about the project.
“My initial response was one of surprise!” says transportation minister Todd Stone. “We’d been led to believe that up to last night that Council was generally behind this plan and supportive of it.”
The cloverleaf was chosen for the $85 million project after public consultations — the vast majority of people preferred it — and engineers say it has the most safety and traffic flow benefits so the minister has no plans to put the brakes on the plan.
“We’re moving forward with the project,” Stone says. “This is the number one bottleneck outside of the lower mainland in the province. It’s got all kinds of benefits wrapped around it.”
With the cloverleaf design, a 1.4-hectare section of the 25-hectare park will be lost and the B.C. government is promising to replace at least that much.
The minister is also pledging to make sure salmon and migrating bird habitat isn’t affected.
“I think a lot of these issues I think could have been brought forward earlier,” Saanich mayor Richard Atwell points out.
Mayor Atwell, who didn’t vote in favour of the motion, thinks they can make the cloverleaf work but further talks are needed.
“I think hopefully we can enhance the park by working the ministry because they have a a lot of land there that’s underutilized so I think there’s a lot of opportunity to get a win win on all of this,” Atwell says.
Construction is set to start this fall.