Overpass plans initially rejected for North Cowichan highway

Overpass plans initially rejected for North Cowichan highway

It’s a section of highway in the District of North Cowichan that’s tempting to cross for many willing to take the chance.

There are few places to cross the Trans-Canada Highway safely in this section of the District of North Cowichan, just north of Duncan.

Last Thursday night, 17-year old Leeann Joe was struck, and killed on the highway between Sherman and Green roads just before 10 p.m.

The driver, in what’s suspected to be a grey 2011-13 Hyundai Elantra, likely with front-end damage, took off, and still has not been found. Joe’s family believes she was leaving the mall at the time.

Work has been ongoing to make crossing the highway safer.

The Ministry of Transportation had previously proposed an overpass crossing over the Trans-Canada Highway between Beverly Street and James Street.

But in March, North Cowichan council voted it down, sending the project back to the ministry for design improvements.

The mayor of the District of North Cowichan was not available for an interview Wednesday.

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A rendering of the proposed overpass is shown.

But B.C.’s Minister of Transportation, Rob Fleming, said the money is available, and it’s ready to begin construction any time.

“We are looking for improvements as well to make that corridor safer. In fact, we have designed an overpass that is with district right now. We want to work with the Cowichan Tribes, and North Cowichan, and City of Duncan to further those plans. The funding is secure,” he said.

It’s something the school district is pushing for as it prepares for the opening of its new high school right in the same area, according to assistant superintendent for the Cowichan Valley School District, Jeff Rowan.

“Our school district has taken a position that we are in favour of an overpass between the new Quw’utsun Secondary, and this side of the highway,” he said.

The closest crosswalk is 700-metres away. The school district estimates every day that at least 100 students chance it, crossing the four-lane highway by jumping the barriers.

“And it’s not just students. There’s adults, too,” he said. “What we’ve been told is 30 per cent of pedestrians are crossing improperly, that’s adults, and students.”

The new high school is set to open for classes in September.

The date for a new overpass is still to be determined.

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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