More than 600 visitors stopped by an open house at St. Joseph the Worker Parish Hall in Saanich on Tuesday to check out three proposals for a new interchange at McKenzie Avenue and the Trans-Canada Highway.

Scoping out commuter options in Saanich

An open house saw the public get their first look at three proposals for the McKenzie interchange

West Shore commuting could look very different in 2018.

An open house in Saanich on Tuesday saw the public get their first look at three proposals for an interchange on the corner of the Trans-Canada Highway and McKenzie Avenue, a project aimed at mitigating traffic congestion including the Colwood Crawl.

Colwood Coun. Rob Martin said he was “100-per-cent supportive” of the interchange moving forward, but cautioned the public to look at the three options with an eye not only for now, but for the future.

“Lets get it right. If we are going to do something different down the road, it will cost us so much more than if we spend the money up front,” he said. “That’s where we have to figure out what is best long term. Once Royal Bay comes online and we have 2,000 to 5,000 more commuters, are we going to end up in gridlock? It’s tolerable right now, but looking down the road, especially with developing growth in (the West Shore) how do we sustain this long term?”

Ministry of Transportation district manager Janelle Erwin called the project “absolutely important.”

“We feel solving our congestion problems at this intersection is going to have a huge impact not only on local residents … (but those) up and down the Island.

Options one and three includes a smaller diamond-shaped interchange Erwin said would be less expensive than option two, which features a partial cloverleaf design aspect that requires a larger footprint. All three designs eliminate the traffic light for north-south highway traffic, have traffic signals on either side of the highway at Mckenzie and Admirals Road, and feature a grade separation for the Galloping Goose Trail, which would no longer cross McKenzie Avenue. The cloverleaf option would also eliminate the need for southbound traffic turning left on Mckenzie to hit a traffic light.

A ministry count determined that 610 visitors dropped in to check out the open house on the $85-million project. Erwin couldn’t go into detail on empirical figures, but said the increase in safety and the reduction in congestion through the corridor would be “dramatic.”

Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell wondered what the effect of the interchange would have elsewhere in his municipality, including the intersection of McKenzie and Burnside Road, and the busy highway intersection at Tillicum Road.

“We could end up with the same issue (as other interchanges), which is the highway traffic flows through but we end up having long lineups of traffic trying to get to the highway in Saanich,” he said.

“Tillicum is another version of this. At what point do we end up with a freeway? I don’t know.”

Erwin said northbound traffic to the West Shore from Tillicum Road could actually be faster, with traffic queues at the current McKenzie light already stopping commuters as far back as Tillicum Road already.

“We’re going to deliver about the same (amount of traffic) that is delivered today to Tillicum Road. We’re not seeing that anything is going to change dramatically there,” she said. “We are confident that once we implement the improvements at this intersection, we’re going to help draw some of that shortcutting traffic on municipal roads back onto the highway, because they’re going to realize the highway will be a safe and efficient way to travel.”

Ground is expected to be broken on the interchange project in 2016, with completion planned for 2018.

For more information on the proposal go to www.engage.gov.bc.ca/mckenzieinterchange.

alim@goldstreamgazette.com

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