Province issues Malahat traffic warning as construction causes longer than normal delays. So what can be done? Tess van Straaten takes a look.
Close to 30,000 people drive Vancouver Island’s busy Malahat Highway every day and the traffic tie-ups are only getting worse.
“It’s obviously a lot more of a wait than it was last summer,” says Malahat Chalet & Moon Water Lodge owner Lori Strandlund.
It’s been so bad this year, Strandlund says it’s having an impact on business.
“I had a call from Alberta because they heard about the construction and were quite concerned,” she says. “We’re advising all of our guests to give themselves extra time.”
The B.C. government is also now warning drivers to expect longer-than-normal delays as construction turns what should be an approximately a 30-minute drive into a two or three-hour ordeal.
Starting this Friday, constructions stoppages that brought traffic to a standstill will no longer be allowed during the day on Fridays, but commuters say that’s not the only thing causing bumper-to-bumper back-ups.
A major pinch-point is the Leigh Road overpass, where two lanes go down to one. Even on the weekend and at other non-peak times, merging traffic can cause back-ups all the way to Helmcken.
“We’re in a crisis situation now and this is what we’ve seen over and over ? we reach these points of crisis and then we think, ‘oh it’s time to do something’ but we really should have been planning ahead,” says Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau.
Furstenau is often stuck in the commuter chaos and she says years of neglect ? and not having a long-term transportation plan for Vancouver Island ? have caused the Malahat mess.
The Green Party MLA says she’s hopeful the new NDP government will start to implement long-term solutions to ease the highway headache once and for all.
“I would love to see commuter rail coming back up and the NDP have talked about this,” Furstenau says. “The commuter bus system from Cowichan to Victoria is also full so we can expand the capacity there that will take support from the province to do that.”
Increasing capacity on the Brentwood Bay to Mill Bay ferry could also help reduce traffic on the TransCanada Highway.
B.C.’s new transportation minister, North Island MLA Claire Trevena, says they’re in the process of collecting traffic data to determine the best short-term and long-term solutions.
With construction continuing until the Fall of 2018, relief can’t come soon enough for motorists.