Metchosin Road transformation begins

A 30 km/h speed zone change is the first of several planned upgrades for the stretch of the road through Colwood.

Commuters driving along Metchosin Road in Colwood last week were greeted with a new speed limit in a safety measure that’s aimed at keeping local students safe.

With Sangster elementary and Dunsmuir middle school in the immediate vicinity, speeding along Metchosin Road has become a safety concern, as more and more drivers from areas further south are using it as their main route on their morning and evening commutes.

“There have been a number of complaints over the past couple of years,” said Colwood communications manager Sandra Russell. “The first thing the City did was to install the speed reader boards at the top of the Royal Bay hill … so that has helped a little bit. When you get into that ocean view area it feels like you’re on a West Coast highway and you can just cruise. People forget that they’re coming right into a neighbourhood with two schools.”

The number of students in the area has led the City to plan a series of upgrades for Metchosin Road, many of them in the name of safety, with the added playground zone between Hatley Drive and Terrahue Road being the first.

A playground zone means the new speed limit will be enforceable from dawn to dusk, seven days a week.

“We want to make sure our streets are safe for children and there’s a lot of children walking on Metchosin Road,” noted Coun. Rob Martin.

“We realize (the 30 km/h zone) will frustrate some people because some people see Metchosin as a thoroughfare and it’s their direct line to get home. But we think that pedestrian safety is paramount, especially for our children.”

The rest of the road’s upgrades are planned over the next several months. They include a new raised sidewalk on the east side of the street from Lagoon Road to Hatley Drive, a buffered bike lane along both sides of this section, a lighted crosswalk near Dunsmuir middle school and three islands along the route.

Future plans call for a crosswalk at the Lagoon intersection and an upgrade at Painter Road, in light of a new development in that area.

The City held a public input session in September and some common questions and concerns were brought forward by residents with regards to parking and street lighting.

“As soon as you put in concrete sidewalks, that takes out some of the parking that you have on shoulders, so that will be incorporated into the plan,” Russell said.

Plans are also in place for pedestrian-oriented street lighting to alleviate concerns over darkness.

Another common question is whether lanes might be added to Metchosin Road, but that isn’t on the City’s radar because of high costs.

The addition of sidewalks and bike lanes falls in line with what Vancouver Island University planning expert Dave Witty told a gathering of residents and city officials on Nov. 17, when he urged the City to look at multi-use transportation modes when constructing or upgrading existing infrastructure.

“As we’re planning out the next 10, 20 years, we are truly on the cusp of some fundamental changes in transportation,” Martin said, using ride-sharing and automated vehicles as examples of new ways people are or will be getting from point A to point B.

“We’re in a challenging time right now because land use is far different than what it was in the ’50s or ’60s, when people wanted to build a strip mall and make sure that you have a lot of ground parking for vehicles … is that really necessary moving forward?”

The infrastructure around the Royal Bay development was seen by Witty as a great improvement compared to Colwood’s older streets.

“The way the streets are designed (in Royal Bay) is a good model for the multi-use road and sidewalk areas that we’re hoping to achieve throughout Colwood,” Russell said.

Colwood continues to work towards updating its Official Community Plan and residents are being asked for their input. For more information visit colwood.ca/makingwaves.

joel.tansey@goldstreamgazette.com