Major traffic planning for Vancouver Island is underway, and once again Salt Spring has been left out of the exercise.
The recently announced South Island Transportation Plan aims to tackle vehicle congestion in the region and study multi-modal possibilities for improvement in an area stretching all the way from Sooke to Duncan. Much of the work will be updating and collating previous studies, some of which were undertaken by the Capital Regional District. But just outside the study’s scope are the CRD’s electoral areas, and so far we have not been given a seat at the table.
Fair enough, we are not directly connected by a through-road. We’re not the ones sitting in the dreaded Colwood Crawl during our daily morning commute and we can usually avoid McKenzie Avenue during rush hour. But there is no question that people on the Gulf Islands — especially Salt Spring — are stakeholders here. Continuous ferry traffic through Salt Spring’s terminals to Swartz Bay and Crofton proves we’re adding to the mix. Business, medical appointments, recreation activities and shopping often take us to the larger centres across the water. We also sometimes deal with the overflow when crashes close parts of Vancouver Island’s major highway system: Salt Spring made for an extremely backed up and aggravating detour route when the Malahat portion of Highway 1 was blocked in May 2017.
The Juan de Fuca area is, of course, part of Vancouver Island and connected by highway to the study region. The “back road” to Port Renfrew from Lake Cowichan has likewise been suggested for detour traffic for people living closer to Sooke.
Salt Spring has been successful at lobbying for inclusion when left out of such plans in the past. The local transportation commission secured funding to produce its own cycling and pedestrian masterplan after being excluded from a CRD planning exercise.
This time the electoral areas have the CRD on our side, and it’s the province that needs to wake up to the fact that any regional transportation strategy must take us into account.
Transportation issues on the South Island need to be solved. A complete study of all the impacts and solutions is necessary — and the electoral areas are part of both.