Following Thursday’s crash on the Trans-Canada Highway at Goldstream Provincial Park, many people were asking why there are not more alternate routes around the Malahat.
The highway was closed in both directions for nearly 14 hours after a two-vehicle crash just before 11 a.m. near Finlayson Arm Road. Two people were injured and the highway reopened around 12:54 a.m. Friday.
On Friday, British Columbia’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said in a statement that anyone who has travelled on the Malahat understands the frustrations with congestion and delays. However, the ministry also said, “there are significant costs and engineering challenges associated with alternate routes that have been considered to this point.”
“If there are reasonable ideas for options that are brought forward, we would take a look at those ideas,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The ministry has looked at alternate routes, but at this point in time, none are deemed practical from an engineering or budget standpoint.”
One example Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure used to demonstrate the high costs was a Goldstream bypass. According to the provincial government, this would cost $600 million and there would be challenges widening the existing highway through Goldstream, “not the least of which would be the impact on the park.”
There was also a 2007 review that looked at building a bridge from Brentwood Bay and Mill Bay. The bridge options ranged in length from 1.4 to four kilometres. The ministry said that crossing would be $1 billion for the bridge alone.
“The many logistical challenges include seismic considerations, requirements for shipping, approvals by [the] coast guard and navigable waters Canada, and the connecting road infrastructure that would be needed on the Saanich Peninsula,” the ministry said.
“There would be significant environmental challenges as well including parkland, the watershed for the Greater Victoria water supply, and disruption of sensitive ecosystems. First Nations’ interests and archeological impacts would also need to be considered. Ministry staff have also heard from many in the community that bypassing the Malahat Village would negatively affect those businesses that rely on tourist traffic.”
The ministry also mentioned that once construction is completed on the $18.5-million upgrade on an 11-kilometre-long section through the Malahat Village later this summer, there will be five kilometres of four lanes with wider shoulders, three kilometres of a median barrier, new frontage roads, safer intersections, a new U-turn and improved overhead lighting. The section will be between Finlayson Arm Road and the Malahat Summit.
“In the long term, the ministry intends to continue to work toward safety improvements for the corridor, including more four-laning and adding [a] median barrier to the route,” the ministry said.
Premier John Horgan also addressed the issue while speaking in Vancouver Friday. Thursday’s collision happened in his riding and Horgan said that the stretch of highway raises serious road safety questions that need to be dealt with and the answer may be a bridge.
“There was a study done when I was first elected, maybe a decade ago about a bridge across the Saanich Inlet and I think that’s something we should certainly dust off and have discussions with the Indigenous communities and have discussions with the travelling public and see if that’s a possibility,” Horgan said.
Horgan said the provincial capital shouldn’t be isolated in the event of a serious collision and that he will work with the ministry to make a more cost, conscious transporation routes in and out of Victoria.