A stand of Garry oak trees that provide a natural barrier to the Trans Canada Highway and Marigold elementary school is among the chief concerns from the public who are being asked to get behind the McKenzie interchange.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure put up 20 detailed panels explaining the process from beginning to end, park to pavement, at its May 18 open house in St. Joseph the Worker hall on Burnside Road.
Katherine Brandt, a member of the Gorge Tillicum Community Association and whose children attend Marigold elementary, believes the project is going too far in its impact to Marigold and Spectrum students. Not only will the interchange remove many of the native Garry oak trees that provide Marigold some much-needed sound protection and privacy from the highway, the new pedestrian overpass is being extended from its existing 150 metres to 450 metres.
“Few people are aware the Garry oak knoll and entire length of vegetation screening Marigold and Spectrum schools from the Trans-Canada Highway will be cleared, that Marigold will be losing a chunk of its property and that the new highway will be 20 metres closer. The oaks will take decades to re-establish,” Brandt said.
She also alluded to a lack of alternative transit on the McKenzie corridor, which Mount View-Colquitz resident Helen Bell expressed as her main disappointment at the open house.
“It surprises me an $85 million project wouldn’t include provisions for added bike lanes and bus or alternative transit on the McKenzie corridor,” Bell said. “McKenzie is where the traffic is going to flow, and McKenzie is how cars get across Saanich to the University of Victoria, but there’s no dedicated route for bikes to get across Saanich.”
While there are still Saanich voices that disapprove of the partial cloverleaf option unveiled on April 26, others came to the meeting in support.
“I believe the cloverleaf design to be the very best of the options,” said retiree Hugh Williams of Gordon Head.
Williams and his wife came to Saanich 16 years ago after 50 years in Edmonton. They’ve been waiting for a McKenzie interchange since they arrived.
“Whenever we want to travel up-Island or go to Langford for the Costco or the Superstore, or our favourite restaurant, we often wait at McKenzie.”
B.C. Transit was also represented at the open house. With the new interchange and the coming two cent hike to the region’s motor fuel tax, B.C. Transit is exploring additional opportunities for bus services and stops, said B.C. Transit senior planner James Wadsworth.
“One of the issues is we are nearly at capacity with only about 12 more spots for buses at the bus yard,” Wadsworth said. “We would like to expand with routes to the West Shore and a bus from the Esquimalt dockyard to the University of Victoria on Admirals-McKenzie.”
Janelle Erwin, the district manager of transportation with the Ministry of Transportation, was at the May 18 open house. She said the ministry is working with Habitat Acquisition Trust and the Garry Oak Ecosystem Recovery Team regarding the Marigold Garry oaks that are coming down, and those that will be replacing them.
“We don’t know how many trees will come down yet but it will be as few as possible,” Erwin said.
The ministry also has plans to erect a series of sound fences along the interchange’s borders, including at Marigold and Spectrum. One ministry estimate says the current highway noise was measured at 44 decibels inside a Marigold classroom and will be reduced to below 40dB.
Marigold and Spectrum parents are invited to an additional meeting May 25 at 7:15 p.m. in the Spectrum library regarding the impact of the McKenzie Interchange.