Engineering students from the University of Victoria (UVic) recommend Saanich install a set of traffic lights or a roundabout at the intersection of West Saanich Road, Sparton Road (left) and Prospect Lake Road (right) under a partnership between the university and the District. (Google Map)

Saanich partners with UVic to solve real-life engineering problems

Civil engineering students focused on Larchwood corridor near McKenzieAvenue and West Saanich Road

Something new and something old was on the table as University of Victoria engineering students presented their solutions to real-life engineering problems in Saanich.

The eight presentations from third-year civil engineering students focused on the Larchwood corridor near McKenzie Avenue and the intersection at West Saanich Road, Sparton Road and Prospect Lake Road.

Presentations delivered last week at UVic counted towards 40 per cent of students’ grades, and took place before a panel that included Harley Machielse, Saanich’s director of engineering. Kevin Volk, assistant deputy minister with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and Christopher Kennedy, chair of UVic’s civil engineering.

“I was very impressed,” said Machielse. The collaboration with UVic has alerted Saanich engineering staff to some “innovative” ideas, while giving students real-life engineering experience, he said.

This year marked the second year of the partnership between Saanich and UVic. Like last year, Saanich asked students to investigate ways to improve the cycling connectivity between Larchwood Drive and Ansell Road across McKenzie Avenue.

Both Larchwood Drive and Ansell Road run north to south. But while Larchwood Drive directly terminates on the northern side of McKenzie Avenue, Ansell Road culminates in a cul-de-sac located just behind the southern side of McKenzie. In other words, it does not directly connect with McKenzie Avenue, the natural link between the two roads.

Like last year, the common element among presentations was the inclusion of a two-way cycle track linking Larchwood and Ansell.

If the first problem covered familiar terrain in an urban area, the second problem addressed an uncontrolled intersection in rural Saanich near Prospect Lake.

The intersection at West Saanich Road, Sparton Road and Prospect Lake Road has been the source of much community concern because it needs to accommodate a wide range of users: drivers, cyclists, pedestrians (including school children) and equestrians using a nearby trail.

Pending council’s approval, Saanich plans to improve the intersection, and the work of the students will be beneficial.

“They came up with some great creative designs that will help us with our design process,” said Machielse.

Students identified two broad solutions. The first calls for a full set of traffic signals, whereas the other recommends a roundabout.

Both solutions would result in a “substantial cost,” said Machielse.

“There are so many different elements than the signals themselves,” he said. They include, among others, the alignment of the roads themselves, gutters and storm-sewers, he said.

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