Langford plans to open its idle highway interchange next year in a bid to spread out chronic traffic congestion plugging Millstream and Spencer roads.
Tuesday night Langford council opted to borrow $3 million and award a $2.5 million contract to Windley Contracting, a project that will rebuild Leigh Road to the bridge and complete an on-ramp to allow traffic to flow into the northbound lane of the Trans-Canada Highway.
Rush hour drivers on the Millstream interchange or Spencer Road often face long, agonizing lineups to access the Trans-Canada, which ripples through other major arteries in the city. Opening the new interchange should spread the traffic load, at least for a while.
“Millstream (interchange) is failing now. We’re getting a lot of complaints that people can’t get across Millstream,” said Langford Mayor Stew Young. “We are at a point now where we’ve got to act quickly and open other accesses.”
The north section of Leigh Road is fenced off and houses sit empty and boarded up to make way for highway traffic. Over the next six or eight months, crews will widen Leigh to a three-lane road, lined with bike lanes and a sidewalk, from Goldstream Avenue to the Spencer interchange bridge.
In its own $3.8 million project, BC Hydro is extending a major underground powerline along Leigh and over the interchange, in preparation of eventually feeding power to homes on Skirt Mountain. Work is expected to last into April or May 2012.
“The interchange will help out a little. A left hand turn (at the Spencer interchange) will alleviate 10 to 15 per cent of the traffic problem,” Young said. “It will buy us time for a year or two.”
Young said he wants to finish the interchange on and off ramps and utility work in phases over the next few years, depending on bid prices from contractors. Bids for the upcoming work came in lower than expected. “We were bracing for $5 million,” Young said. “I’m happy we got the pricing in. I’m excited to start finishing it off.”
Borrowing the latest $3 million puts Langford at $12.5 million spent on the interchange. The project is being underwritten by five Skirt Mountain property owners, who are covering borrowing costs and paying down the principle as their land is developed and subdivided.
Young said Langford has received about $1 million from the property owners under an agreement signed in 2008. “When they sell properties, the capital cost is paid down,” he said.
The current Spencer Road traffic light on the highway won’t be removed until all the interchange ramps are built. But when the time comes, a number of residents living on the north side of the highway worry they will be stranded with no nearby place to cross.
Young said the City has applied for provincial funding to build a pedestrian overpass at Spencer Road, but nothing is in the pipeline. The Ministry of Transportation gave $1 million specifically for a walkway across the Spencer interchange.
Spencer and Millstream interchanges are a long walk from Spencer Road, resident Maureen Johnston told council, especially for seniors and young kids.
“A lot of seniors in Hidden Valley (trailer park) walk,” she said. “Many don’t have cars and they walk into downtown Langford get their groceries.”