District seeks better traffic management for highway crashes
When tragedy strikes on the Malahat Drive, often it’s Finlayson Arm Road in Highlands that ends up picking up the slack.
After the fatal motorcycle crash on July 1, many Highlands residents had a hard time getting home due to a long string of cars on Millstream Road trying to bypass the crash scene by using Finlayson Arm Road.
On Canada Day, Highlands Coun. Sigurd Johannesen was heading into Langford on Millstream Road, when he came up to the traffic jam. He got out of his car and started walking the line of cars talking to the drivers.
“The road was all backed up and no one knew why,” Johannesen said.
He found many frustrated Highlands residents had to wait in line along with the drivers heading toward the Malahat.
The Ministry of Transportation uses a pilot car to guide one-way traffic along the three-kilometre Finlayson Arm Road during crashes that shut down the highway, but Johannesen said waiting drivers should pull to the side of the road.
That would allow Highlands residents to get home without waiting long periods of time. “The idea is getting traffic (waiting to use Finlayson Arm Road) on the shoulder,” Johannesen said.
He also suggested that the ministry needs at least two people helping direct traffic, with one at the entrance to Highlands to explain the situation to waiting motorists.
In April when a fuel tanker truck crashed on the Malahat spilling more than 42,000 litres of fuel into Goldstream River, traffic plugged Finlayson Arm Road while the highway was closed for 22 hours.
In the wake of the crash, Highlands met with the Ministry of Transportation, the City of Langford and roads contractors.
“The issue is there are two types of traffic trying to get into Highlands and they need to remember that,” said Highlands administrator Chris Coates. “They need to stage the traffic and extract the local traffic.”
Coates noted that Millstream Road is wide with large shoulders, and drivers could easily pull over so local residents could pass by. “In a bad (crash or emergency) it can be a while. (Waiting in the car for) an hour would be nothing, it could more than a couple hours,” Coates said.
Johannesen also noted that many people are now using the winding single-lane Finlayson Arm Road to bypass highway traffic. The rural road is the only bypass for crashes between Goldstream Park and Langford, other than the Marine Circle Route from Sooke to Lake Cowichan and Duncan.
“People get frustrated because of the congestion on the highways on the weekends,” Johannesen said. “The real solution is (for the province) to find an alternative route.”