Road issues dog pathway projects

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The development of Salt Spring’s road network over the years from country lanes to Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure highways has resulted in a varied patchwork of roadway allowance that is hindering some community pathway plans.

Inconsistent road right-of-way widths and private property boundaries have caused complications on the Salt Spring Transportation Commission’s current Lower Ganges Road project between Central and Booth Canal Road. Similar problems are now calling into question the commission’s ability to build a separated pedestrian pathway on Ganges Hill in tandem with a MoTI repaving project.

Ministry operations manager Don Legault gave an update on project plans to the transportation commission on Jan. 25. He said the paving project has been moved back two to three years and could take a couple of years to complete. 

While the ministry has committed to including a paved 1.5-metre shoulder on each side of Fulford-Ganges Road that is suitable for cyclists and a 0.5-m gravel shoulder beyond that, Legault reported there is difficulty securing even that much space. He was doubtful the commission will find the additional room needed for its proposed pedestrian path on the uphill side. As well, the road allowance is 25 metres in some places but only 20 metres in others and the right-of-way is not consistent on both sides. 

“It’s just a matter of having room to be able to move the utility poles. Some of it will involve blasting,” Legault said. 

Commissioners were disappointed by the news and tried to brainstorm solutions such as covering over ditches. Legault said the ministry will likely need to take extra steps just to complete its own part, although covering ditches is not ideal.

Reducing speed limits has been suggested as another way of improving pedestrian safety in the area. The transportation commission endorsed a petition in February 2020 calling for 30 km/hr speed limits on Lower Ganges/Fulford-Ganges roads stretching all the way from the intersection with Brinkworthy Road to Alders Road. 

Legault pointed out there are 30 km/hr zones where there are schools and playgrounds. However, he reported MoTI could consider adjusting speed zones for a portion of the island; higher speed zones may have been set in places they should not have been, Legault said.

Despite the ministry’s position on the limitations, CRD director Gary Holman believes there could still be a way to improve pedestrian safety on the hill.

“There may be places where there is space, and those where there isn’t. It’s those pinch points [that are the problem],” Holman said after the meeting.

Holman suggested a pathway could be built by acquiring more right-of-way, something that needs to happen for the MoTI project in any case. It would add to the costs of the pathway, however. 

“Certainly it’s been clear for some time their priority is repaving,” Holman said. 

Holman said good news that came out of the meeting is the ministry has extended the scope for Fulford-Ganges Road resurfacing, which is to start after the Seaview Avenue intersection and will now continue as far as Cranberry Road. The ministry has also indicated willingness to address safety issues at the Beddis Road intersection in some way.

Holman remains concerned the timeline has been pushed back, since resurfacing was originally scheduled to take place in 2020.

“As the timing recedes, my worry is the commitment recedes along with it,” he explained. 

Holman said he will be working with MLA Adam Olsen to ensure MoTI’s commitment to the project, and to accelerate it if at all possible.

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