In View Royal it’s not unusual for residents to call their mayor at home to lament on municipal issues, but when they start dialing the rest of council, you know they’re really upset.
For the past month, Coun. David Screech says his phone has been ringing far more than usual and the complaint is always the same: People are sick of waiting in road construction queues.
And who can blame them — delays on the Island Highway Improvement Project have closed the busy commuter route months longer then expected and led to it overlapping with a second project on Island Highway near Six Mile Road.
“People are at a breaking point,” Screech said. “You can’t blame them for wanting someone to call. I guess they look me up in the phone book.”
He brought residents’ concerns to a committee of the whole meeting where city engineers give monthly updates on the roadwork.
“They want to know is when will it be over, when two-way traffic be back to normal,” Screech told the engineers.
At last update, the delays were blamed on utility companies needing to work on the road to install their wires underground. Once the utility poles were down, council was told, regular traffic would resume in short order.
But the poles have been down since April, and the traffic lineups are as long as ever.
“We were told the work sites would be smaller and delays would be shorter,” Coun. Heidi Rast said.
Director of engineering Emmet McCusker has become the bearer of bad news at these monthly meetings, though he tries to focus on the positive: The rain gardens are functioning, the curbs and sidewalks are finished, and street lights are on.
Crews are now focused on landscaping gardens in the median, which some councillors suggested could be done with the road open. But McCusker said that wasn’t possible.
“We need the closure for worker safety,” he said, noting there are also work going on throughout construction zone, which is why the work zone hasn’t shrunk as expected.
When pushed to provide a final date of completion, McCusker estimated the road would re-open June 17 for two-way traffic.
“There’s enough slack in that estimate we should be okay,” he said, but not without adding, “unless we get a week of rain.”
Work in Portage Park and completion of an artistic rock wall along the roadway will continue after the road is re-opened, he said.
Meanwhile, work is underway elsewhere on Island Highway from the View Royal border to Six Mile Road. The project, funded by the Great Canadian Casino, will repair the road surface with new asphalt and improved marking, adding a cycling lane and sidewalk, as adding street lighting and a traffic light at Hart Road.
Work on that project is timed around keeping commuter lanes open during peak hours, meaning no work on the eastbound (towards Victoria) lane is done in the morning and the westbound lanes are clear in the afternoon. An effort is also made to keep one lane of traffic open in each direction at all times and traffic signal timing has been adjusted to reduce gridlock.
“We’ve changed the timing on the Wilfert Road signal to give Island Highway traffic more time to clear,” said View Royal superintendent of engineering Deb Becelaere.
Councillors noted they’ve heard few complains about the Casino project, which is expected to continue until September.
“The biggest issue is access to businesses along the road,” said Screech, putting forward a unanimously supported motion that the Town relax its signing regulations to allow the business along that stretch more opportunity to advertise that they’re still open.
Updates on both construction projects are available on the town website, www.viewroyal.ca.