Editorial: B.C.’s ‘On the Move’ transportation plan short on details

It didn’t take 13,000 responses to inform government the Island's top traffic problem is the Highway 1 logjam in Saanich

Last week, B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone trumpeted the province’s long-awaited transportation plan as “a roadmap for the next 10 years on how we will expand and improve our transportation network to ultimately improve the quality of life for us all.”

The B.C. On the Move plan is the result of 13,000 responses from British Columbians about their perceived infrastructure priorities. But the lack of detail in the plan is frustrating, given the hype of its release by the province.

It didn’t take 13,000 responses to inform the government that Vancouver Island’s top traffic problem remains the logjam at McKenzie Avenue and Highway 1 in Saanich. But those anticipating a specific timeline and commitment to an overpass at the intersection were bitterly disappointed with last week’s On the Move announcement.

“The ministry is committing to deliver key upgrades to reduce congestion and improve commuter mobility along Highway 1 between Langford and Victoria,” the report reads. “The ministry has committed to assess the potential for a future interchange on Highway 1 at McKenzie Avenue.”

That’s right, “assessing the potential” for a solution. And it continues:

“Preliminary engineering work is underway to look into the feasibility of building a future interchange to help traffic flow more efficiently. The B.C. government will be looking to partner with the federal government and local governments to help ease congestion and improve safety along this key corridor.”

Capital investment in infrastructure is no small expense: the provincial government plans to spend up to $2.5 billion over the coming decade on B.C.’s vast network of highways, bridges and tunnels.

Each municipality or regional district across B.C. can come up with a dozen reasons why some of that cash should be earmarked for their projects, as many municipalities are struggling with how to fund aging infrastructure. (Saanich is actually ahead of the curve on this – the District banks a .75-per-cent annual tax increase for needed pipes and roadworks.)

There’s also the long-stalled commitment by the Victoria Regional Transit Commission to get Light Rail Transit up and running between Langford and Victoria. If we put tens of millions of dollars into an interchange along Highway 1, are we forfeiting provincial funding for LRT through the same area?

Questions abound, thanks in no small part to a lack of concrete detail from the province. As happens all too often in Greater Victoria, talk seems perpetually on the cusp of action.