Commuters and businesses in the Admirals Walk area are bracing for six months of traffic woes as the deadline looms for replacing Craigflower bridge.
The aging wood-trestle bridge on Admirals Road, which funnels 18,000 vehicles per day between View Royal, Esquimalt and Saanich, is scheduled to close June 1 for six months.
Similar to the nearby Admirals Road bridge replacement three years ago, Saanich transportation planners expect traffic to disperse evenly through the nearby municipalities. Specific detour routes won’t be set up.
But increasing complications, for the first two months Saanich plans to shut down Gorge Road West from Tillicum to Admirals to traffic to replace sewer pipes.
“This is definitely more complex (than the Admirals bridge project) just from the fact we share this bridge with View Royal and we have a school there,” said Steve Holroyd, a transportation technician with Saanich. “The impact is more complex.”
Engineers are scratching their heads on how pedestrians and students will cross the Gorge waterway to access Craigflower school or View Royal businesses at Admirals Walk. Holroyd said they will need to get students to school, but also allow elderly and special needs people who might not drive access to area shops.
“If a kid gets sick how will a parent pick them up? There are a variety of issues,” Holroyd said at an open house in View Royal. “We need to accommodate school kids and heavy (pedestrian) use through the day. We haven’t 100 per cent decided how that’s going to be done.”
Overwhelming feedback from the public, parents and Craigflower school is to build a temporary – or perhaps permanent – pedestrian bridge, but that is estimated at $250,000 and would eat into a $10.7-million budget with little wiggle room.
Bridge project manager and Saanich engineer Troy McKay expects people might be allowed to cross the old bridge during the summer, and the new bridge by the fall, but the final pedestrian management plan isn’t settled. The company which wins the bridge replacement contract will need to devise a traffic management plan.
“The easiest may be a temporary bridge,” McKay said. “The worse case scenario is there would be no (pedestrian) crossing in July or August.”
Water taxis were considered but ruled out as impractical in terms of the regulatory regime to install docks. A pontoon type floating bridge was also suggested, but Transportation Canada insists the Gorge waterway be kept open to marine traffic.
Gorge Road being closed for two months caught View Royal politicians off guard. “I’m not sure that makes sense,” remarked Coun. David Screech. “Residents will be going through a lot of pain already.”
The Craigflower project isn’t expected to create the kind severe impact on traffic patterns as last year’s Island Highway Improvement Project near Four Mile hill, but nearby businesses fear customers will reflexively give a wide berth to the Craigflower and Admirals area.
Lori Lelonde, owner of Your Pet Pals in Nelson Square, lost 30 per cent of her business during the Island Highway project, and worries this year’s roadwork will shut her 15-year business down.
Customers told her roadwork and associated traffic jams kept them away, she said. If the same happens this summer, four people might lose their jobs.
“If I make it through this I’ll be surprised,” Lelonde said. “Three years ago it was the Admirals bridge, then Island Highway and now Craigflower. It’s one after another with traffic delays.”
View Royal Mayor Graham Hill agrees businesses have had it rough over the past few years.
“When we worked on Four Mile Hill, we estimated some businesses would lose 25 per cent of their daily take, turns out some lost 35 per cent,” the mayor said. “Jobs are at stake. The community has to be considered with the impacts and how to balance that out.”
Currently two lanes with narrow sidewalks, the new Craigflower bridge will be rebuilt with two northbound lanes entering View Royal and one southbound into Saanich. It will be further widened with bike lanes and generous sidewalks with the herring fishery in mind.
The 78-year-old timber trestles will be replaced with steel, although some original wood might be incorporated into aesthetic features of the bridge.
McKay said the bridge revamp project began due to the cramped sidewalks and lack of bike lanes.
“We asked what could we do to improve Craigflower bridge based on pedestrians and cyclists. The end of that is the result we have today,” McKay said. “When you deal with a new bridge you have to look at everything.”
For more on the Craigflower bridge project, www.saanich.ca/services/engineering/projects/craigflower.html. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for information.