The idea of constructing a highway bypass around Duncan to ease the traffic congestion on the Trans- Canada Highway corridor has been raised again by local governments, but it appears that there is still lots of opposition to such a project.
During a discussion on the City of Duncan’s draft Transportation and Mobility Strategy, which was presented at a special joint council meeting between Duncan and the Municipality of North Cowichan on July 5, Duncan Coun. Garry Bruce suggested that the local governments should strike up a committee to explore the idea and try to get senior levels of government behind it.
He said he knows a highway bypass is a contentious issue in the community and that a report prepared on the issue in 2014 suggested against moving forward with such a project at the time.
But Bruce said when you look at the traffic on the TCH corridor currently, it’s much busier today than it was in 2014 when the study was done.
“I think we’re on the cusp of even becoming quite a bit busier and we all know that,” he said.
“Is there any appetite [around the table] to go to higher levels of government with this? They have pots of money and would really like to give us some. The planning that would have to go into it would take many years and there’s very little talk about this right now. I would like to see us move ahead with something.”
At a joint meeting of North Cowichan and Duncan councils last year to discuss future transportation plans for the region, North Cowichan’s director of engineering David Conway asked council members if they felt that it was time to revisit the idea of building a bypass to deal with the traffic bottlenecks that often occur on the TCH as vehicles transit through the community.
Conway said at the time that with the new Cowichan District Hospital soon to be constructed near the highway in the Bell McKinnon area, and the overall and continuing growth on southern Vancouver Island, the issue had arisen a number of times in the planning community.
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North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring said at the meeting on July 5 that he believes the issue is one that future councils in both municipalities will have no choice but to consider as traffic continues to increase along the highway corridor.
But he told Bruce that he doesn’t think a motion to strike a joint committee would pass in North Cowichan’s current council.
“I think the motion would probably fail,” Siebring said.
Duncan CAO Peter de Verteuil said city council had recently directed staff to request a meeting with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to ask if building a highway bypass around Duncan was anywhere on the Ministry’s radar.
But North Cowichan Coun. Rob Douglas said he’s totally opposed to the idea.
He referred to the study in 2014 and another in 2005 that spelled out some compelling reasons not to proceed with the project.
“It doesn’t make very much sense and I’d argue that the reasons [the studies] cite are as relevant today as they were then, including environmental impacts and the loss of farmland as the bypass would cut through many [agricultural land reserve] properties and other private properties, as well as land belonging to Cowichan Tribes,” Douglas said.
“I’m also pretty sure our North Cowichan residents in the Maple Road area don’t want a bypass running past their front yards.”
No motion was made at the meeting to take up Bruce’s suggestion that a joint committee be formed.