Tuesday’s announcement of a partial cloverleaf design for the new McKenzie interchange at the Trans-Canada Highway is the next step in a long-standing plan for the traffic-clogged intersection, says Langford’s mayor.
“As far back as I remember that area was always (targeted for) an interchange,” Stew Young said.
He looks forward to the quality of life improvement for the thousands of commuters who come through the area every day.
“It’s better than people sitting in a traffic standstill,” he said. “Nobody wants a 10-hour day. The bottom line is it will improve the quality of life for a lot of people.”
While vehicle commuters from the West Shore stand to win under the new design for the $85-million project, and a new Galloping Goose overpass is enticing for cyclists, other aspects continue to spark outrage within the Gorge Tillicum Community Association.
That includes the cloverleaf portion of the interchange encroaching into Cuthbert Holmes Park, which will move within 100 metres of the federally recognized Colquitz River estuary, bird sanctuary and wildlife habitat.
“I’m disappointed; we could do better,” said Rob Wickson, the community association president. “It’s low quality, like a typical highway design you’d put out on the Coquihalla or something, plunked down into an urban setting.”
During the announcement, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone acknowledged the disruption to Cuthbert Holmes Park, but said the ministry is working closely with “those stakeholders to minimize the impact.”
The province will “swap” a tract of right-of-way land in the park in lieu of the park property being used for the highway project.
Wickson disagreed with the province’s approach. “They pushed as hard as they can to get the stakeholders to agree with everything they said, and when we pushed back they found every excuse they could think of not to [listen].”
Traffic wise, the chosen McKenzie design will prioritize the uninterrupted east-west flow and on-ramps for the TCH. It has dedicated bus lanes and allows for the future addition of light rail transit, something Wickson had lobbied hard to achieve.
Young is pleased the province went with the option he called “the simplest one that doesn’t confuse people,” making reference to the multiple loops of the McTavish Road interchange near the Victoria International Airport. “Governments know that the goal of an interchange is to move people through and do it cost effectively,” he said.
While no options will satisfy everyone, Young said, he voiced confidence in the province’s promise to work with various stakeholders to mitigate the impact on the park and the wildlife habitat.
Plans also include an upgrading of the intersection of McKenzie and Burnside Road West.
“The Burnside intersection wasn’t originally in the scope of the project, but they listened to ideas that came from the community and from Saanich engineering to make alterations,” said Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell.
There will be additional turn lanes installed where Burnside intersects with McKenzie, which is actually on a corridor of provincial land, Atwell said.
“We’ll have to monitor the project to see what impact it will have on the rat running of people trying to avoid McKenzie at all costs. Some try to go south on Marigold to get to McKenzie, and Carey is also an issue, so [additional turn lanes onto McKenzie] should free up the traffic to a great degree.”
Atwell noted that the wetland and rain swale planned for the centre of the cloverleaf will minimize the loss of parkland. The cloverleaf will be built on a filled section of Cuthbert Holmes Park, including the current parking lot accessible from Admirals Road. It is expected to run as far south as the now-closed Burke Street. The existing Cuthbert Holmes parking lot off Admirals will be replaced closer to Burke.
Stone also spoke of the expected traffic delays during the construction period, which will start in the fall and take 18 to 24 months. “We’re pretty good at delivering major projects while moving traffic through,” he said. “We’ll do as much of the work on off hours as we can, evenings and weekends, and work closely with local government stakeholders, most notably the District of Saanich.”
Construction will start with the Galloping Goose overpass.
The design will be presented in greater detail at an open house at St. Joseph the Worker Parish Hall, 753 Burnside Rd. W., from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. on May 18.
–with files from Don Descoteau