Improvements to one of the busiest and perhaps trickiest intersections in Saanich, if not the entire Greater Victoria region, will have to wait until after the completion of the McKenzie interchange project. That is the message from the District of Saanich.
Harley Machielse, Saanich director of engineering, said the municipality will reassess issues around the Wilkinson-Interurban intersection after improvements to the intersection of Trans-Canada Highway and McKenzie Avenue have wrapped up.
A non-scientific survey of Saanich News readers deemed the intersection of Wilkinson Road and Interurban Road to be the worst area for traffic congestion by 37.5 per cent, ahead of the intersection at Trans-Canada Highway and McKenzie Avenue, which received 25 per cent.
“We expect to gain a new understanding and perspective after the completion of the McKenzie interchange project,” said Machielse. “At that time, we can see how traffic patterns have adjusted in the area.”
The current schedule calls for the completion of the McKenzie interchange project by the summer of 2019 following a series of delays since the official start of the long-anticipated project in September 2016. The project worth $85 million promises to improve the flow of private automobile traffic, as well as public transit through one of the major traffic choke points in the region through the addition of a partial ‘clover-leaf’ system of on and off-ramps and other improvements.
Not surprisingly, ongoing construction has increased congestion on roads in the surrounding area, including the nearby intersection of Wilkinson Road and Interurban Road.
Seen on a map, it connects a series of roads that radiate out like the letter X. Interurban Road roughly runs from Saanich’s southeast towards Saanich’s northwest, linking residential and commercial areas around Uptown with the Interurban campus of Camosun College, currently undergoing considerable, if not rapid expansion.
Wilkinson Road, meanwhile, runs from Saanich’s northeast quadrant with its residential neighbourhood towards the southwest with Wilkinson turning into Helmcken Road on the other side of Interurban. Helmecken, in turn, connects with roads in neighbouring View Royal and other Westshore communities beyond it. East of Highway 17, Wilkinson Road turns into Royal Oak Drive, thereby linking West Shore communities like View Royal with not only Saanich, but other communities on the Saanich Peninsula.
More locally, Hastings Street running east to west intersects the ‘X’ created by Wilkinson Road and Interurban Road, thereby creating a five-way intersection, home to several businesses that serve the immediate Strawberry Vale, Marigold and Glanford neighbourhoods.
In short, the intersection has local and regional significance.
“The … intersection is a particular concern in the region,” said Machielse. “We understand there is significant community interest in improving this area.”
Saanich has consulted with the public about the intersection in the past, he said. “Unfortunately, we did not find a solution that was acceptable to a variety of users, including local residents, commuters, BC Transit, pedestrians and cyclists.” This said, Saanich has not closed the door to future improvements, but only after it has amassed additional data.
“It’s important for us understand the post-construction impacts the Interchange project has on the transportation network before we review the five-way intersection,” he said.