West Shore commuters gritted their collective teeth over traffic jams and long delays linked to Island Highway roadwork in View Royal last year, and yet another traffic storm is on the horizon.
Last week our sister paper Victoria News was the first to unveil that the CFB Esquimalt Blue Boat service would end on April 30. About 400 military personnel per day park on the Colwood side of the military properties and take a small blue workboat to their jobs across the harbour.
The service removes several hundred cars from daily Trans-Canada and Island Highway commuter traffic — cars that will most likely join the jam after April, should the base commander stand firm in his decision to end the service.
When View Royal conducted its extensive roadwork in 2010-11, car counters estimated that 500 vehicles were pushed onto the Trans-Canada Highway during the morning rush. Ending Blue Boats won’t bring back that kind of pain, but it is a significant step backward in the region’s broader desire to get people out of their cars.
Exactly one month after the scheduled end of the Blue Boats, the scheduled beginning of the Craigflower Bridge replacement project begins.
Saanich and View Royal are taking the short-term pain for long-term gain approach, and are closing the busy bridge to traffic for six months.
A new bridge is needed and it will be interesting to see how the project managers move students and other pedestrian traffic between the Gorge Road area and Admirals Walk. With this 18,000-vehicles per day artery closed, drivers from the West Shore, Saanich and Esquimalt will face another rough year.
Transit watchers point to these omens as the sign that E&N commuter rail should get on track sooner rather than later. But even if the feds cough up matching money for the $15 million track refurbishment project, it will still be several years or longer before Budd cars are running and an actual commuter rail service is developed.
Despite many people working hard to improve transportation on the West Shore, for the foreseeable future, it will get much worse before it gets better.