After nearly a year of weekday single-alternating traffic at Four Mile hill, a busy commuter road should be open in both directions after Friday.
The $7.4-million Island Highway Improvement project began in July 2010 with promises that commuters wouldn’t wait longer than 10 minutes in traffic queues, and with a completion date set for March.
The project ended up pushing about 500 more vehicles onto the Trans-Canada Highway during morning rush hour, fraying commuter nerves and putting pressure on View Royal to get the job done.
“It’s taken longer than anyone ever expected,” remarked Mayor Graham Hill.
The final surface paving was completed last week, and this week was spent completing line marking and installing sensors for a new traffic signal at the corner of Island Highway and View Royal Avenue.
The project was designed to improve traffic flow by adding left-turn lanes and dedicated bus pullouts, but Hill says drivers shouldn’t expect a second highway when they choose the View Royal route.
“It’s not the 401,” quipped Hill, referring to the superhighway in Ontario. “We want to promote multi-mode transportation, a shift away from personal vehicles for daily travel.”
Landscaped medians make the vehicle lanes seem narrow and encourage drivers to keep to the 50 kilometre per hour speed limit. Conversely, the bike lanes are wider than usual — giving cyclists a two metre berth on the uphill and 1.8 m going downhill towards Victoria.
The bike lanes will eventually feed into the E&N rail trail to give cyclists a quick route to shopping at Admirals Walk and an off-road path all the way to Victoria.
The remainder of the project — completing an artistic rock wall along the road and landscaping in Portage park — shouldn’t interrupt traffic and will be done in about a month.
View Royal director of engineering Emmet McCusker said he’s looking forward to clocking the time it will take him to bike downtown when the trail is ready, predicting it will be faster than driving.
Another thing he’s looking forward to: A heavy rain storm. That’s when he’ll get to see the new rain gardens in full effect.
When water collects in Island Highway road-side drains, it will be directed into the centre median and will flow above ground through rock trenches and peculate through the soil to naturally filter out heavy metals before flowing into Portage Inlet and Thetis Cove.
“When there’s enough rain, there will be creeks running down the middle of the roads. In some spots little waterfalls will happen,” McCusker said. “It’s going to be really neat to see.”
Hill said he’s proud of the end result of the project that sets a new benchmark for future road design in View Royal.
“We stayed to the purpose, and unfortunately it took longer then expected,” he said. “What we have now is a road with a vision of the future and type of travel we want to see in our community.”