Following years of construction, the exit loop on the McKenzie Avenue interchange opened today.
The opening means the McKenzie Avenue interchange project along Trans-Canada Highway 1 is only weeks away from being completed, according to the province.
But not everyone is impressed.
“We are very frustrated and extremely disappointed,” said Vicki Blogg, who lives in the Portage Inlet neighbourhood, just west of the Trans-Canada Highway, near Admirals Road.
While exiting the highway the McKenzie Avenue might be easier, the new interchange has cut off vehicle access to Portage Road, eliminated green space, and increased noise volume in the neighbourhood, residents say.
Residents spent years of discussion, design plans from numerous independent engineering companies, and dozens of meetings with the provincial government, and say nothing has been done to address their concerns.
George Blogg, president of the Portage Inlet Sanctuary Colquitz Estuary Society, said although their latest design for the area was tentatively agreed upon a few months ago, the province’s transportation ministry gave residents disappointing news on Thursday.
“They told us it was outside of the scope of the project,” said Blogg. “There was no other explanation given other than the ministry had not promised us anything.”
Blogg says in the contemporary designs presented to them in 2017 by the ministry, there was plenty of green space and a safe bike path for Portage Road.
In the end, a tall fence abuts Portage Road, leaving no space for trees or shrubbery, just a thin strip of gravel.
“We’ve lost most of the green space, and we were promised green space, but now there’s no chance for green space because it’s just gravel,” said Kallayna Jardey, another concerned resident, adding that more than 100 trees have been removed from their roadside.
Another issue for residents is the amount of noise from the highway.
According to provincial government slides detailing the project, concrete noise walls about three metres tall have been installed between the highway and Portage Road. The province also suggests the “lowering” of Trans-Canada Highway under McKenzie Avenue and Admirals Road will also reduce noise.
But residents disagree, saying the walls are too short, and the noise bounces off the walls on the other side of the highway.
“We have so much more noise now that we sleep with our air conditioner on high now, all the time, just to get away from the sound,” said Christine Fast, who lives in the Portage Inlet area.
But an even bigger concern is safety.
The new pedestrian walkway across Highway 1 has eliminated the Portage Road entrance from Admirals Road that George Blogg says 90 per cent of residents used.
Now, approximately 200 residents are forced to use the Esson Road entrance, which nearby resident Harjit Dosanjh says has a sharp 45-degree turn off from Admirals Road and limited visibility.
“It’s a horror show,” said Dosanjh. “Speeds have increased, as before there used to be traffic lights, now trying to get on there, it’s putting your life in your hands.”
CHEK reached out to the province for comment but was told no one was available prior to publication.