DriveBC’s ‘slow’ Malahat crash update comes under scrutiny

DriveBC's 'slow' Malahat crash update comes under scrutiny
(Doyle Childs)

The flipped truck that closed the Malahat in both directions during Thursday’s evening commute is unearthing criticism of how quickly, or not, the public is notified in the event of a crash.

“Usually [DriveBC is] 20 to 30 minutes behind,” said commuter Ron McNeil. “This was quite a while, for a serious one.”

The Malahat highway was closed in both directions for most of Thursday following a dramatic crash before reopening at 7 p.m.

Commuters tell CHEK News a gravel truck hit the median and flipped, then caught fire.

READ MORE: Malahat reopens after crash closes traffic in both directions

“I’ve lived on the Island my whole life and I haven’t seen anything this bad in a long time,” said Cate Webb, who witnessed the crash, on Thursday.

A day after the crash, the length of time it took the public to be notified about the crash is coming under scrutiny.

DriveBC is supposed to have the most up-to-date info for travellers, but it was more than an hour between Thursday’s crash and DriveBC’s first communication about it. DriveBC is operated by the ministry of transportation and its contractors.

“We need better communication. And you know what? We’re we’re going to keep on having this conversation until we figure out how to replace the Malahat,” said Chris Foord, a retired transportation planner who lives in Greater Victoria.

“I mean, I’m sorry, but a single-lane road for 30,000 vehicles a day coming into Victoria is just nonsense,” he said.

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Drivers argue that if they’re notified earlier about a crash, will be easier to avoid a pile-up, and fewer people will need to use long detours.

“All those poor people. There were so many people that got stuck in that didn’t need to if they’d only been notified five or 10 minutes into the event, not an hour later,” said McNeil.

BC’s minister of transportation told CHEK News Friday that he’s looking into what’s behind the delay.

“That’s an anomaly. It’s not the response DriveBC usually has,” said Rob Fleming. “I have to look into the source of that delay, whether it was one of our contractors who was on scene not reporting it directly – I don’t want to speculate but, that is not a typical lag time for for DriveBC.”

As the ministry gets down to the bottom of it, the frustration for commuters along the busy corridor continues.

“Nowhere else in Canada would they put up with what we put up with on the Malahat, it’s completely substandard,” said Foord.

He says a new highway should be built on the land between Sooke Lake and Shawnigan Lake.

“It’s time to replace it, let’s get on with it,” said Foord. “It’s going to cost money. Can it be done? Yes. The Malahat isn’t Everest. This is an engineering molehill.”

It was seven hours before traffic was moving again. With many motorists grumbling about this latest delay, the conversation about an alternate Malahat route continues.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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