A retired View Royal machinist and a Saanich economist want the Ministry of Highways to give serious consideration to another plan for solving the commuter traffic tie-ups for which the intersection at Trans-Canada Highway and McKenzie Avenue/Admirals Road has long been blamed.
Dick Faulks, a View Royal resident and treasurer for sustainable growth advocate Island Transformations, says the province needs to plan now to include accommodations for light rail in any changed configuration for the intersection, which the province is budgeting roughly $85 million.
“I just want the ministry to spend less money, take up less land and make preparation for regional rail,” he said.
Previous surveys and think tanks looking at future growth in the area have placed a regional rail system as a priority and a good long-term solution to our transportation challenges, he said.
Faulks’ take on the three options that have been presented to the public for possible adoption is that they are actually only one option, with three slightly different designs. He said it’s possible to spend far less money and at the same time, create infrastructure that looks to the future.
“We must prepare for the installation of rail,” he said. “That’s where – if people in our highways department would look forward and see that – we should be going.”
Faulks, 84, has been a booster of commuter rail for decades. With that in mind, he said the three options attempt to “solve an intersection with a superhighway.”
No definitive costing has been projected for the alternative proposal being promoted by Faulks and Rob Wickson, the founder of Island Transformations and current president of the Gorge-Tillicum Community Association. However, it sees some significant changes to the flyover and modified cloverleaf scenarios now being analyzed.
Among them are the presence of a tunnel on the outbound side of the TCH, which would run under the a bridge connecting the highway and Admirals with McKenzie. It would cover two non-stop lanes heading toward the West Shore and also provide space for a rail stop running parallel between the roadway and the Galloping Goose Trail. Wickson said until the region has commuter rail, the tunnel area could be used as a dedicated bus exchange.
The proposal calls for inbound traffic, going straight or turning left, to still be subject to a light.
But with outbound highway traffic not a factor, vehicles turning left onto McKenzie – over 10,000 a day – would only be stopped when traffic coming from Admirals Road had a green light, thus improving flow and easing congestion on the commute into Victoria from the West Shore and points north.
Wickson, for his part, is equally interested in the future of his neighbourhood. He calls the Admirals and McKenzie/TCH intersection “the entryway to the urban environment” of Greater Victoria and as such, creating a high-speed section of roadway leading to another urban intersection at Tillicum Road simply doesn’t make sense.
“This is such an important intersection for Greater Victoria, not Saanich or Victoria but everyone,” he said. “We’ve got to look at this much more carefully, and away from just the transportation point of view. We can’t just look at this as a place for vehicles to move through, but look at it as a place that involves pedestrians, cyclists and a neighbourhood.”
Faulks and Wickson said they’ve had conversations with Ministry of Transportation officials on the matter, through the public consultation process last fall and otherwise.
In an emailed statement, a Ministry spokeswoman wrote that staff have been meeting with community associations since mid-October and that process continues.
“Design suggestions and other considerations are part of that consultation process and we welcome input from all stakeholders, including suggestions from the Gorge-Tillicum residents association,” she wrote.
The province is not only keeping the objectives of safety, efficiency and reliability in mind with regard to public input received and technical and financial information gained, she stated, “Other important considerations are how to accommodate transit, pedestrians and cyclists, and future population growth.”
Wickson said he’ll push for a different approach to solving the region’s worst traffic challenge, even if that means taking the province to court to force it to look at other options.
As he has for years in general, Faulks plans to keep banging the drum for rail when it comes to the redesign of the intersection. He holds out hope that by keeping this “other option” in the spotlight, public opinion will force the province to take a step back and revisit its alternatives for the project.
“It is frustrating, but I can’t give up,” he said, “because logic says if we want to save money, you have to do the best thing and look to the future.”