The torrential rains may have passed, but the aftermath has left many Greater Victoria residents feeling cut off from the rest of the Island.
Monday’s rainstorm, which saw 88 millimetres fall on the Malahat, washed out a section of the Trans-Canada Highway, closing off the road between West Shore Parkway and Tunnel Hill. The road reopened Tuesday to single-lane alternating north and southbound traffic with nightly closures in effect from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. through Monday, Nov. 22 to allow crews to repair the damage.
Apart from the commuter chaos, the closure also led to lineups at the gas pumps and grocery stores with residents concerned over supply shortages.
The closure has breathed new life into calls for an alternate route to southern Vancouver Island. With commuters facing lengthy waits for the Mill Bay ferry or a 236-kilometre route through Port Renfrew and Lake Cowichan, a local transportation planner says the time has come for a bypass to the Malahat.
CRD traffic commission board member Chris Foord has been calling for the construction of a larger highway from Langford to the southern end of Nanaimo’s parkway for three decades.
“I always figured it was going to take a bit of a rockslide or a minor earthquake to close the Malahat for a month, so we could decide how important it is to have a viable link,” he said about the section of road used by as many as 25,000 vehicles a day.
He said emergency bypass routes would work best in the short term while a new highway corridor is the long-term answer.
Expanding the single-lane section of the Malahat at the south end, however, would require construction into the watershed east of the existing highway. The prospect was debated and shut down by the regional water supply commission in 2019.
But Foord said watersheds, which comprise most of Canada, shouldn’t keep the province from developing a more reliable route. “If we were in Denmark, they would just bore a tunnel through it and think nothing of it. If (it were) Norway, there would have been a high-level bridge across and they would have thought nothing of it,” he said.
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