Overpass planned for Hwy 1 in North Cowichan will improve pedestrian, cyclist safety: province

Overpass planned for Hwy 1 in North Cowichan will improve pedestrian, cyclist safety: province
Photo: B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
North Cowichan is seen in this picture.

The B.C. government will soon present design plans for a pedestrian bridge over a busy stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1) in North Cowichan, just north of Duncan, where officials hope to deter people from unsafely crossing the road.

The North Cowichan Active Transportation Overpass aims to increase safety across Highway 1 between Beverly Street and James Street/York Road in North Cowichan, according to the province. It says the overpass “will allow people to safely cross the highway between two intersections, which are 700 metres apart.”

The province, in a news release Thursday, says an estimated 30 per cent of all foot crossings on this section of the highway are unsafe despite the existing signage restricting pedestrian access. 

Rob Douglas, mayor of the Municipality of North Cowichan, says the project aligns with the Trans-Canada Highway Corridor Management Plan, which dates back more than a decade.

“It was a joint plan adopted by North Cowichan and the City of Duncan with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. It’s a project we’ve been discussing for a number of years now, and I’m glad to see there’s some progress on it,” Douglas told CHEK News.

“It looks like it’s going to be moving ahead pretty soon.”

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A section of Highway 1 about three kilometres (3,000 metres) south of where the proposed overpass would go sees an average of more than 36,000 vehicles passing through each day, according to 2021 data from B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

And local foot traffic is on the rise.

“When the new Quw’utsun Secondary School opens, the number of people crossing the highway to reach restaurants and businesses is expected to grow,” the province said in the release.

The Cowichan School District says construction on the new school is expected to wrap up sometime this spring. Once the school opens in the fall, it will be able to house about 1,100 students, and if additional classrooms are added, it will have the capacity for 1,500 students.

The school is located on the west side of the highway adjacent to Vancouver Island University.

SEE ALSO: An exclusive early look at the $82M Cowichan Secondary School project

“There are concerns about safety with the high school students crossing the highway there to get to some of the restaurants on the east side. I graduated from Cowichan High, and I was one of those kids who was dangerously crossing the highway to get to the restaurants,” recalled Douglas.

“The overpass is going to address some of those safety concerns,” he said, while the province adds the bridge will accommodate people walking and rolling.

“The proposed new overpass will assist people travelling by foot, bicycle, wheelchair or scooter. Changes to turning lanes will help maintain the flow of traffic along the highway by reducing vehicle-turning conflicts,” it said in the statement.

“New curbs will increase the visibility of pedestrian pathways and crossings while helping drivers more easily identify business-access locations.”

Douglas says the municipality is putting more focus on active transportation, and the overpass “really fits with that.”

He adds that “it’s going to benefit students and also residents across North Cowichan and Duncan who want to make their way across the highway and do so safely.”

Public information session

An information session about the planned overpass is scheduled for Feb. 7 from 4-7 p.m. at the Quamichan School multipurpose room (2515 Beverly St.), and the province says all are welcome to attend. “Ministry staff will provide an overview of the proposed design and answer questions…”

It says people will be able to share their feedback on the project.

“Looking forward to hearing what local residents think of the plans,” said Douglas.

People unable to attend the session can view the project materials online here starting Feb. 7. For more information about the project, email [email protected].

READ ALSO: Colwood awards contract for new Galloping Goose overpass at Island Highway

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