Local groups not sold on interchange plans

Gorge Tillicum Community Association president believes new interchange could create a backlog on other roads

This is one of the three design options outlined by the province for the McKenzie-Admirals intersection on Highway 1.

Despite a renewed commitment to public consultation by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, the community associations to be directly impacted by the new McKenzie-Admirals Interchange are still hoping for a better design proposal than the three delivered on Nov. 17.

The good news for community associations is most believe they’ll continue to communicate with MOTI beyond the Dec. 11 deadline for public feedback on the project.

However, there is some concern that despite lengthy meetings with locals, the provincially tasked project group isn’t focused on the strategies set out over the past 20 years, said Rob Wickson, president of the Gorge Tillicum Community Association.

“If you look at the proposals, [MOTI] hasn’t given us three options, it’s one option with three designs,” Wickson said. “They haven’t really considered by any ranking system public transit, walkability or cycling, and the focus remains on single occupancy vehicles.”

On Nov. 17, the province put forth three proposals to redesign the McKenzie-Admirals Interchange with the Trans-Canada Highway. Of the province’s three design proposals, two are known as diamond freeway interchanges, with the TCH running either under or above McKenzie-Admirals. The third is a partial cloverleaf that uses a portion of Cuthbert Holmes Park.

The designs are not final, and the MOTI project group is still open to all options at this point, said a spokesperson for the ministry,

However, because none contain stop lights or include future options for rapid transit besides the potential for a bus lane, Wickson feels it’s short sighted.

When Gorge Tillicum also released a proposal of its own last month, it also supported an underpass for continuous TCH traffic. However, the underpass is only for continuous TCH westbound traffic, not eastbound. As Wickson points out, by retaining an eastbound TCH traffic light, it will calm the build up at Tillicum Road, which is sure to back up during peak hours once the McKenzie-Admirals light is removed.

“I go back to the first question I had on this project: what issues are we trying to solve?” Wickson said. “[If] Tillicum becomes a three or four light back up, [that becomes a] place commuters will try to escape from and find a through route on side roads.”

For now, local partners such as First Nations, the District of Saanich, City of Victoria, the Capital Regional District and community associations are continuing to communicate with the MOTI project group.

It’s still very early in the discussion, said CRD transportation planner John Hicks. Some meetings are to sort out the location of water mains, while others tackle the priorities of how to best accommodate the Galloping Goose Trail.

The McKenzie-Admirals interchange project guide, for its part, says MOTI will bring back the next series of designs for a second period of public consultation in the winter or spring.

Richard Dominy, president of the Residents Association of Strawberry Vale, Marigold and Glanford, said his vision of the McKenzie-Admirals Interchange isn’t impeded by lights on exits or on the TCH. It also creates a lane for bike and pedestrian traffic so that they don’t have to cross a traffic lane.

“Perhaps they go under, over, or on the side,” Dominy said.

Dominy also spoke to the concern of spill-off traffic during the two-year construction period. “What plans are being made, where is the traffic going to go anytime there’s a problem on the Trans-Canada?” he asked.

As it is, commuters fill up side streets on Burnside, Prospect Lake Road and all the way up to Hastings in rural Saanich. “Wherever they can make a track to get through.”

For Wickson, there is still the lingering debate of Victoria’s longstanding, and possibly forgotten, motive to lessen downtown traffic.

“Originally, when this was debated 20 years ago Victoria wasn’t too interested in a freeway running downtown,” Wickson said. “Turns out, it’s not more cars that make a vibrant downtown …  it’s the people.”

Feedback for the current McKenzie-Admirals Interchange is welcome until Dec. 11 through online feedback at engage.gov.bc.ca/mckenzieinterchange or by emailing mckenzieinterchange@gov.bc.ca.