‘Gridlocked’: Sooke drivers buckle up for long summer commute due to construction

'Gridlocked': Sooke drivers buckle up for long summer commute due to construction
Traffic in Sooke is pictured on May 31, 2024.

Residents of Sooke say their daily commutes are skyrocketing in length as construction along a commonly used road gridlocks traffic along Highway 14.

A little forward progress isn’t much to ask for, and for Sooke commuters, they’ve been at it a while.

“The traffic in and out of Sooke is insane right now,” says District of Sooke Coun. Al Beddoes.

If good things come to those who wait, Highway 14 is a perfect example. Anyone seeking sun, beaches, or outdoor recreation knows what lies in Sooke and beyond.

“People want to come here. They love it here. They look around Sooke and say, ‘Wow what a wonderful place to live,'” said Beddoes.

Wonderful, with a wait. Despite the Highway 14 Corridor Improvement Plan, that widened and enhanced certain sections of highway, there’s still only one road in and one road out of this growing Island community.

“We’re around 16,000 to 17,000 people now, which rivals Oak Bay or Esquimalt in terms of size,” said Beddoes. But every day of the year there’s congestion.

“Between 3 and 6 p.m., the highway is at 100 per cent capacity.”

An infrastructure project on Charters Road that started Monday will exacerbate the already frustrating Sooke slog. Charters Road dips down to Charters Creek, which is a salmon-bearing stream. The culvert has collapsed and is being rebuilt, causing a road closure that will last until October.

“It probably siphons off 10 to 15 per cent of the traffic that goes through Sooke, so we lose that, and at 100 per cent capacity now, you can see it gets to be gridlocked,” says Beddoes.

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Jose Vieira has lived in Sooke since 1990 and yesterday’s midday drive into town from his home was an all-time record.

“It takes about eight minutes usually, but Google was saying it was 45 minutes to come up to Sooke,” he told CHEK News.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure says it’s aware of the concerns of Sooke residents and the importance of a clear and safe commute.

In a statement, the ministry said, “We are currently identifying sections of Highway 14 between Sooke and Port Renfrew for road improvements this summer, including repairs, realignment, intersection improvements and additional upgrades to improve safety.”

Vieira says these are minor tweaks to a major problem.

“[The ministry] does not have plans to do anything,” he said of major infrastructure projects.

Beddoes says the district needs federal help for projects further down the road, including an expansion of Throupe Road, which could further ease commuter concerns.

He says it could be a matter of easing one problem while building another. “This hit us for houses, houses, houses. But we can’t do infrastructure overnight.”

Jordan CunninghamJordan Cunningham

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