Bike lanes, two-way traffic not expected until late spring
Work on the Island Highway Improvement Project is two months behind schedule, but there’s some relief coming to the congested commuter route.
Originally slated for completion by the end of March, roadwork is now expected to last until late May or early June. But delays are expected to ease after April. The worksite will be smaller and alternating traffic will begin at 8 a.m. rather than 6:30 a.m. Crews will continue to clear the street for two-way traffic by 3 p.m.
View Royal director of engineering Emmet McCusker said the delay was caused by unforeseen problems installing the utilities underground.
To widen the road, utility poles need to come out and be replaced by underground connections. The contractor had expected to have utility ducts in the ground by mid-December, but it took until this month to complete the installation.
While roadwork will be otherwise complete in April, road closures will still be needed while underground conversions are completed. BC Hydro has agreed to send an additional crew from Nanaimo to begin work this month, at the same time as Shaw Cable. Telus has said its work will take 13 weeks, but it hasn’t confirmed it will work concurrently with the other utilities.
“We’re hoping Telus will agree to come in earlier as well,” McCusker said. “As soon as the poles are out, we’ll be able to wrap up the roadwork fast — in a matter of weeks.”
In the meantime, the final road paving and line painting has to wait. In addition to the delay, some councillors are also concerned about safety on the road.
Near the E&N trestle, poles are as far as a metre out from the new curb, causing the lanes to be quite narrow in that section. This is of particular concern for cyclists.
Coun. John Rogers suggested the Town post signs advising cyclists the road is unsafe for their use. But Coun. Andrew Britton, who frequently rides his bike along the Island Highway, pointed out that cyclists are free to use the full lane.
“A major part of this project was to encourage cycling along that corridor,” Britton said. “We don’t want to turn riders away from it.”
Besides widening the road to allow a centre turn lane, and bicycle lanes, the $7.4-million project includes installing a stormwater drainage system through Portage Park. Casino revenue is funding an artistic rock wall along the north side of the street.
A federal grant for the project was extended until July 31.
For updates, see islandhighwayproject.wordpress.com.