Malahat detour traffic overwhelms island ferries

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Drivers who were hoping to find a workable detour between Victoria and Nanaimo after the Malahat was closed on Thursday flooded ferries serving Salt Spring, causing two-sailing waits at several terminals.

The Malahat section of the Trans-Canada Highway was closed around 11 a.m. Thursday due to an accident between a fuel truck and a van in Goldstream Provincial Park and involved response from a hazardous materials crew. The road re-opened around 2 a.m. Friday.

Three round-trip sailings were added to BC Ferries’ Brentwood Bay-Mil Bay crossing over Saanich Inlet, but with just 20-car capacity, that option was quickly over-run.

Salt Spring drivers who were off-island Thursday were caught in the chaos. Those arriving at the Swartz Bay terminal in what would normally be enough time for the 5 p.m. sailing had to wait until 9 p.m. to cross.

By 6 p.m., traffic waiting to leave Salt Spring’s Vesuvius terminal had backed up to around 30 cars parked on the road before the intersection of Vesuvius Bay and Sunset roads. In addition to multiple sailing waits, BC Ferries issued notice at 7 p.m. that the Howe Sound Queen was operating an hour behind schedule. An extra round-trip sailing was added to accommodate the traffic.

Matt Rissling, owner of the Rock Salt Cafe in Fulford, reported that cars had been backed up for that crossing as well, but all travellers managed to leave the island by the time of the final sailing. BC Ferries added a late evening round trip to deal with the overload with a 9:50 sailing out of Fulford.

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