Ganges Hill paving plan updated

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Ganges Hill will be repaved by the end of 2023 by the province’s transportation ministry, who have asked Salt Spring’s transportation commissioners how they want to see the 2.4 metres of bicycle and pedestrian shoulder width distributed.

Mike Pearson, district manager with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI), told the commission at a Jan. 24 meeting that the project, once tendered, could be completed by the end of 2023. The question is how to distribute the 2.4-metre shoulder between the uphill and downhill side, which Pearson asked the commission to get back to him on as soon as they can.

“Similar safety benefits can be achieved however you distribute the shoulder width,” Pearson said. 

The concern for commissioners, as Gary Lehman pointed out, is that the hill would not be built to active transportation guidelines. Provincial guidelines say uni-directional bicycle lanes should be at least 1.8 metres wide and commissioners thought they’d have at least 1.5 metres on either side. 

“At this meeting we learned no, because of property acquisition issues we are getting 1.2 metres on either side or a total of 2.4 metres,” commission chair Gayle Baker explained.

Baker noted that Salt Spring’s Capital Regional District (CRD) director Gary Holman has committed to working with the transportation ministry and Saanich North and the Islands MLA Adam Olsen to see if a little more space can be found along the heavily trafficked area of the hill between Ganges village and the Salt Spring Island Community Services shelter. 

Commissioner Aubrey Smith also raised the issue of cyclists’ speeds going down the hill and whether pedestrians might need more room to get out of the way on a shared downhill pathway. 

Pearson also noted that a request to lower the speed limit in Ganges is with the ministry’s engineering group review, and is something he is interested in along with the repaving project. Speed reader boards are also a possibility, Pearson said, which commissioners are also waiting on a report about from the CRD for other areas of concern around the island. 

Pearson said refuges, areas where cyclists could pull off along the road, are also a possibility. Baker said she eventually wants to see an area along the hill where people can wait for the bus and ride shares, whereas currently people are just out in front of Embe Bakery. Baker said this area is a dangerous place and one where the bus won’t stop, although the bus will stop up the hill by Drake Road. 

Many island cyclists attended the meeting and corresponded with the commission, said Baker. While many opinions were shared, “the bottom line is that if we don’t get more wider bike lanes, we absolutely have to make that area safer,” Baker said. 

The ministry is responsible for roads on Salt Spring, while the CRD commission works on cyclist and pedestrian safety and infrastructure. Having ministry staff present at the Jan. 24 meeting is a positive step, said Baker.

“The ministry does own the roads and the fact that they’re coming and they’re discussing it is a very good sign,” she said. 

The commission is working with the cycling community on a document for MOTI with details on how they’d like the shoulder width divided as well as safety additions needed between Cranberry Road and the village. 

“I think we have a good chance of getting lower speed limits, possibly speed reader boards, refuges and things like that,” Baker said, adding that a document will be handed to MOTI by Feb. 2 so the repaving project’s design phase is not delayed.

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