Premier John Horgan joined with Transportation Minister Claire Trevena and other officials Wednesday to announce an $85-million road improvement project that will see a 1.4-kilometre stretch of Highway 14 converted to a divided four-lane highway.
The work will start at Connie Road and see the road rerouted behind the 17 Mile House Pub and merge back to Highway 14 at Glinz Lake Road.
“Last January we made a series of announcements about making life a little bit easier for people moving in and around Sooke,” Horgan said.
“I’m happy to say that 90 per cent of the projects announced at that time are complete, but there was more work to do.”
He said after an open house and a lot of work over the years where the government talked about improvements to the highway, his government, in conjunction with the federal government, were finally going to do something about it.
One of the highlights of the plan includes work that will take place at Gillespie Road to make access to the highway safer than it is now.
“That intersection is one of the most difficult and dangerous parts of this highway and we’re going to fix that,” Horgan said.
“We’ll also be installing a park and ride area down the road (from the 17 Mile House Pub) to replace the existing one that you now have to risk life and limb to access.”
The project has drawn the ire of some 27 property owners along the stretch of highway slated for improvement, but Horgan said that, while he is sensitive to the concerns and feelings of the people involved, he is also aware that the project will benefit tens of thousands of residents who travel the highway on a regular basis.
“Five of the six property owners whose land will be required for complete acquisition have come to an agreement with the ministry and negotiations continue with the sixth,” Horgan said.
“Negotiations with the others (whose properties will be affected but where total acquisition isn’t required) haven’t yet started in earnest.”
The premier took advantage of the press event to make two additional announcements regarding highway improvements.
The first of these involves work that will be progressing on a widening of shoulders along Highway 14 west of Sooke from Otter Point to Westhaven Road. making it more accessible for bikes, pedestrians and even horses.
Another project – this time on the Malahat – will see the four-laning of the highway from Leigh Road to the West Shore Parkway.
“This has been the site of some terrible accidents lately, and it’s seen Mayor Stew Young (of Langford) standing up and saying, ‘We need to fix that,’” Horgan said.
The announcement met with approval from Sooke Mayor Maja Tait who said that after five years of advocacy to make the road safer she found it to be a relief to see the project move forward.
“This is our most dangerous part of Highway 14 and it’s a relief to see the $85 million allocated,” Tait said.
“I know there have been concerns about the center median affecting fire and emergency services, but I’ve spoken to our fire chief and he assures me that they will be able to respond more quickly and safely when the project is done.”
Mike Hicks, the director of the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area, was also at the press conference and expressed satisfaction with the announcement.
“This is tremendous news for the people of East Sooke. That end of Gillespie will no longer be an accident waiting to happen,” Hicks said.
“And the additional paving from Otter Point to Shirley is a tremendous bonus.”