The process of creating a four-lane highway between Langford and Sooke appears to be moving forward despite concerns of residents along Sooke Road and a claim by Mayor Maja Tait she is unaware of the plans.
This portion of the project will see a four-lane roadway constructed on Highway 14 between Connie and Glinz Lake roads, and include an overpass at Gillespie Road, said Eric Boucher, a Sooke Road resident, who’s seen the plans.
“The public doesn’t know about this, our local representatives don’t know about it. They’ll wake up one morning and there will be flags on the road,” Boucher said.
“This is one of the largest infrastructure projects that this region has seen, and there simply isn’t a consensus that it should be done.”
Boucher and his neighbours became aware of the plans when they received letters in January that the Transportation Ministry may be entering their property for “highway improvement investigation purposes.”
“It went way beyond an investigation when they came to the door with some plans that made it very clear that those plans are set and that they intend to take a part of my land and the land of about 27 of our neighbours,” said Kindra Hodgkinson, who will see the new four-lane highway go through the bottom half of her property.
“The plan is all set. This isn’t an investigation. It’s the first step to acquiring our land and putting a four-lane highway on our doorstep.”
Hodgkinson’s husband, Michael, described how, when the ministry project supervisor came to their home, he had the complete plans for the project, but prevented Michael from taking a photo of the documents.
“He pretty much threw his body across the plans and told me that I couldn’t take a photo,” Michael said. “Why would they do that if they aren’t trying to keep it a secret?”
The Transportation Ministry move comes in the wake of a community engagement process last summer and fall and online feedback regarding Highway 14 corridor improvements. The summary report of those public consultations showed that only half of the people who responded saw highway realignments as a high priority.
“This is the thin edge of the wedge. They’ve told us that they’re going to do this (create a four-lane highway) from Langford to Sooke and once this little piece is done, the rest will fall like dominoes,” Boucher said.
“The community was split (on whether this was wanted) and now we’re not part of the planning process. We’re just victims of the process. The thing is that no one knows about it and our local representatives in Sooke are going ahead with a transportation study and they know nothing about this either.”
Tait confirmed neither she or council were informed of the Transportation Ministry’s plans to move ahead with the highway changes.
Janell Staite, the ministry’s deputy director for the South Coast Region, downplayed the concerns of Sooke Road residents, saying that the public open houses were conducted to ensure that the ministry understood the concerns.
“That informed our planning work going forward,” Staite said.
“We have had conversations with homeowners but those conversations are confidential.”
She added there is no confirmed funding in place and that all the ministry has is a concept.
“We’re just having conversations with property owners at this point,” she said.
James Loewen, the property acquisitions coordinator for the Transportation Ministry, confirmed “some property owners will be getting offers on their properties within two weeks.
“That’s the way this whole process has been going,” said Michael Hodgkinson.
“They’ve come in here and made promises that they will ‘make us whole,’ whatever that means, but they put nothing in writing and they leave nothing behind. It’s all like a big secret, and meanwhile, there are people like my neighbour who has been told that her home is going to be demolished. She’s out there with a realtor right now trying to figure out where she’s going to live. She just lost her husband, and now she’s going to lose her home as well.”
The office for the MLA for the region, Premier John Horgan, was contacted but did not respond to a request for an interview.