Emmet McCusker points to a stack of papers.
Colwood’s deputy director of engineering leafs through the 135 pages before flipping through another stack of appendices lined with colourful maps. The document, Colwood’s newest transportation master plan, is finally finished and ready to hit the road.
“We are really excited about the transformational change within the city, doing it in a way that’s a ‘complete streets’ way to do it,” he said. “It’s the ideal … (so when) we go and do a street, we walk away and know that street is good for 50 years.”
Complete streets is an approach to planning that includes beautification, rainwater management, utilities and alternate travel modes into developments, he said. While it sometimes means investing more early to achieve benefits down the line, it is one of the key approaches in the new master plan.
Among the other priorities it outlines are building out vibrant centres – compact mixed-use centres that bring work, shopping, socializing and living to one area – and creating liveable neighbourhoods. That can include encouraging active transportation, traffic calming and connections to multi-use trails, and expanding walking, cycling, and transit infrastructure and services. McCusker said the municipality’s population could double before it is close to being built out.
“It’s going to be busy. It’s not just about transportation, it’s about land development. It’s about employment, and the more employment we can get out in the area through employment-geared development, or home-based business – all of that helps take trips off the road,” he said.
Working to support transit growth, and densifying development around nodes specified in the official community plan will also help reduce traffic, he added.
Coun. Cynthia Day said creating safe routes to school is a priority.
“If we achieve the goal of even a majority of kids walking to school, that would be a huge success,” she said. “We have to look to doing the easy things first and that means the short trip, making those friendly for people to do.
“It’s a work in progress and it will be a bit of a patchwork quilt for a while. I am very happy that Colwood is moving towards a standardized transportation (plan) that allows for cyclists and pedestrians and assures we acquire whatever rights-of-way that are necessary.”
The transportation master plan shows that 89 per cent of West Shore residents use cars, 3.5 per cent take transit, one per cent cycle and 4.5 per cent walk to get around. As Colwood grows, the plan calls for car usage dropping to 75 per cent by 2026, and to 70 per cent by 2038. Getting there however, is going to take investments in infrastructure.
“We have some money, but we need more and need to be creative on how we can make that work,” McCusker said. “One of the bigger challenges we face is we need density around the nodes (like Royal Bay).”
“I think it’s important that we have that, because it builds the infrastructure that these developments pay for, like the sidewalks and bike lanes and the density to improve the transit flow.”
He understands some people aren’t keen on seeing that density happen, using the recently approved development at Painter and Metchosin roads as an example, but hopes to see their opinions change as projects get built.
“Just because we’ve done the plan doesn’t mean we won’t consult the public at all,” he said. “Any time there is a (major) project we will be opening up a public meeting … and make sure everyone feels heard. It doesn’t mean everyone will get exactly what they want, but at least we get to hear from the residents what the issues are.”
Gas tax revenues, as well as the availability of grants and partnerships, are key to financing infrastructure projects such as the connection of the Painter Road Trail to Royal Bay secondary at Ryder Hesjedal Way, the pedestrian overpass over Island Highway connecting the Galloping Goose trail, and new sidewalks and biking lanes on Latoria Road.
Also on the to do list are traffic light improvements at Sooke and Metchosin Roads, a connection from Dunsmuir middle school to Lagoon Road and a frontage redesign at Dunsmuir that includes a buffered bike lane and concrete sidewalks.
While he personally hopes to see all these projects started or completed within the next two years, he noted that setting priorities and deciding whether to undertake projects at all happens at the council table.
Just rewards for generous baker
At one building project in Colwood, a woman would bring out cookies to City workers every day. Word got back to City Hall, so the landscapers found out what her favourite flowers are.
As part of the boulevard improvement, staff planted those flowers in front of her property.
Colwood deputy director of engineering Emmet McCusker said it was an easy thing to do without costing more for the taxpayers, and is the kind of connection he hopes to strengthen with residents in Colwood.