A steady stream of lunchtime commuters crossed the Selkirk Trestle by foot or bike on Thursday (Aug. 10) as use of the busy corridor linking the Vic West and Burnside Gorge neighbourhoods is increasing faster than expected.
It’s among the busiest sections of the Galloping Goose and Lochside trails that in the coming years will see $53.5 million used for widening the corridor into separated pedestrian and cycling routes, along with adding better lighting.
The Capital Regional District board on Wednesday (Aug. 9) opted for an accelerated option that will see $50 million secured through debt in order to complete the work over six years instead of two decades. The CRD will repay the borrowed funds over 15 years, with the costs in the coming years translating into $28 annually for the average household.
Daily summer volumes on the trail sections set for the work reached over 3,750 users in July 2022 and the number is rising quicker than previously expected. It was projected just a few years ago that trailgoers would reach 4,500 a day by 2040, but the CRD said that amount could soon be exceeded.
New data shows the trail section between the Selkirk Trestle and Switch Bridge is expected to see 5,900 riders and pedestrians per day by 2040.
The phased work includes widening high-traffic areas to 6.5 metres with four metres set aside for cycling and the remainder giving pedestrians their own adjacent walkway. The first phase – which is aiming for a late 2024 start – will see the Selkirk trestle to Switch Bridge renewed, followed by the Galloping Goose section up to Spectrum Community School and, lastly, the Lochside trail south of McKenzie Avenue.
The CRD said the project will improve safety and accessibility on the corridor that is seeing some concerns around the high volumes of users travelling at different speeds, and conflicts are expected to increase with the rise of electric mobility options. Widening the trail would also allow the cycling ways to meet the criteria for being all-ages and abilities (AAA) lanes.
The project will connect key “urban growth nodes” which have been identified as areas that will accommodate future population and employment growth, the CRD said. It added those nodes require high-quality multi-modal infrastructure for people to walk or cycle to their destinations.
The work also supports the goal of shifting new and existing trips to active modes or transit instead of car travel. The region currently sees 26 per cent of trips being taken by walking, cycling and transit use and wants to increase that to 40 per cent, with 15 per cent by bike.
Transportation also accounts for the largest chunk of the region’s greenhouse gas emissions and the CRD sees expanding the regional trail system as critical to reducing that pollution source.
The CRD will continue to pursue grants and partnerships for the project and will report back on that progress next month. It also expects to hear back about a significant federal grant for the project sometime this fall.
Speaking at an unrelated event Thursday, CRD transportation committee chair and Saanich mayor Dean Murdock said the trail’s high usership is a good problem to have.
“The separation that we can achieve by widening the trail will mean it’s a safer place for people to get to where they need to go,” he said.
With files from Natasha Baldin