Call it premature or forward-thinking. The new traffic light at the corner of Vernon Avenue and Ravine Way may fall into both categories.
But Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard says the new light, part of an infrastructure upgrade requirement that stemmed from an expected need to manage traffic in and out of Uptown, will hopefully tackle an entirely different problematic issue.
“The optimist in me says hopefully this will reduce the jaywalking and jay-scootering (across Vernon),” Leonard says. “I cringe though. No matter how much money we spend on roads, sidewalks, traffic lights, some still choose to play daredevil.”
Saanich police Sgt. Scott Treble says he sees a lot of jaywalkers running across the four-lane northbound road, which becomes the Pat Bay Highway, to and from Saanich Plaza. While the Galloping Goose Regional Trail provides pedestrians with a path underneath the road, he says that hasn’t been enough to thwart jaywalking.
“There’s a long stretch of Vernon there that starts at the lights at Saanich Road and carries on past the municipal hall without any crosswalks,” he said. “Pedestrian safety is really important and we encourage people to cross our roads in the safest location they can.”
The traffic light and crosswalk have been installed, but the light isn’t expected to be operational until mid-February.
Ryan Spillett, operations manager for the Ministry of Transportation in the south Island service area, says the real reason the light is being installed is to safely control movements in and out of Uptown in the future, once there’s an exit onto Ravine from Uptown.
“When (Uptown’s) development application was reviewed there was a traffic impact study done. Due to the (anticipated) increase in traffic at that intersection, the recommendation was to install a traffic light,” he said. “We want it to be constructed in advance of the (construction of the) undeveloped phase, not to create a traffic issue first and respond late.”
The entire cost of the project was covered by Uptown.
In recent weeks Saanich also installed a new traffic signal at Ravine and Carey Road.Leonard says even if the Ravine/Vernon light reduces jaywalking, he still wants to see improvements to pedestrian access between Uptown and Saanich Plaza.
“If we want to be truly visionary into the future, I think an underground connection (between the two shopping centres) would be more appropriate in the long-term,” Leonard said.