Interchange proposals go before public

More than 600 visit open house to view plans for McKenzie interchange

Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell was among the more than 600 visitors who filled St. Joseph the Worker Parish Hall where the public was welcomed to an open house on three proposals for a new interchange at McKenzie Avenue and the Trans Canada Highway.

Commuting in Greater Victoria could look very different in 2018.

Members of the public got their first look Tuesday at three proposals for an interchange for the Trans-Canada Highway and McKenzie Avenue, a project aimed at mitigating what Ministry of Transportation district manager Janelle Erwin called the “No. 1 bottleneck” outside the Lower Mainland.

“This is an absolutely important program for the Ministry of Transportation,” she said. “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. (Consequently) all these options are going to go a long way in helping alleviate some of that pressure we feel from the Colwood crawl.”

Erwin was joined by several other communications and B.C. Transit staff, who stood alongside dozens of posterboards and video screens presenting visual depictions of the three options. A ministry count of the attendees determined that 610 visitors dropped in and fired a barrage of questions to officials on hand for the open house on the $85-million project. Ground is expected to be broken on the interchange project in 2016, with completion planned for 2018.

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.”

Options one and three of the triad of proposals includes a smaller diamond-shaped interchange Erwin said would be less expensive, than option two, which features a partial cloverleaf design aspect that would have 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.

The cloverleaf option would also eliminate the need for southbound traffic turning left on Mckenzie to hit a traffic light.

Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell, who took in the info session, 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.

“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.”

For more information on the proposal visit engage.gov.bc.ca/mckenzieinterchange.