Ministry looks at south island congestion

Local officials back transit increase first

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The provincial government is turning its attention to congestion in south Vancouver Island, with a year-long study of multi-modal options announced in recent weeks.

The South Island Transportation Plan will look at options for improvement from Sooke to the Duncan area, study current transportation demands and develop a roadmap for future investments across all modes of travel, according to a news release from the Ministry ofTransportation and Infrastructure.

“I know people are frustrated with congestion and we want to find solutions that will get people moving,” said Minister Claire Trevena. “I’m anticipating that this will lead to a comprehensive regional plan for all types of transportation.”

Consultants at Urban Systems will have one year to complete the report, which will consolidate and update previous transportation studies. In related work, the ministry is reviewing potential detour routes for the Malahat highway and studying the feasibility of commuter rail along the E&N corridor, starting with an assessment of current infrastructure conditions. 

The ministry made a presentation to the Capital Regional District’s transportation committee about the planning process on April 24. Salt Spring electoral area director Gary Holman said the committee in turn emphasized the need to focus on modes of transportation besides those favouring single passenger vehicles, such as the highway improvements recently announced for Sooke.

“Building highways does not reduce congestion. That’s been demonstrated throughout the world,” Holman said.

Holman noted that transit-only lanes are being installed in Victoria, and although not completed have already had a positive impact on commuter travel time. The transportation committee has proposed extending the program into other CRD areas such as Colwood, predicting it would be much cheaper and have a better result than interchange improvements.

Saanich North and the Islands MLA Adam Olsen said transportation is among the top three concerns for his constituents, along with housing and health care. He observed that in the Gulf Islands, transportation issues are often linked to the crumbling road network, but the province barely has enough resources to maintain the roads it has.

“We cannot afford to continue to build infrastructure as our grandparents did,” Olsen said.

MoTI intends to work with CRD communities through a municipal working group and to have the final South Island Transportation Plan ready by March 2020. The CRD board voted to request that the three electoral areas also be included, as the issues impact them both directly and indirectly.

Holman said it’s not known yet whether the ministry will accept this request, but if not, it will not change the electoral areas’ ability to advocate.

For more on this story, see the May 8, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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