When the funding for fixing the McKenzie intersection was announced last summer, we in the Gorge Tillicum community were cautiously optimistic that this would be a great opportunity to invest in a path that would not only benefit road users but our community.
The Gorge Tillicum Community Association considered this such a high priority that we immediately formed a task group that included a former highways engineer, an environmental consultant for large projects, a qualified planner, chair of our local transportation committee, a nearby resident on Admirals Road, and an economist who has been working in issues around transportation for over 20 years.
Not only is Cuthbert Holmes Park a centerpiece for our community and should be protected at the highest level, there are a number of other issues to be considered when planning for options to solve the congestion problems.
These questions include: what will happen to traffic if certain options or designs are implemented? How can pedestrian, cycling and transit be given priority in this project? What are the real environmental costs, and how will they be included in the cost-benefit analysis as the project moves forward?
It is with all this in mind that we participated in the ministry’s consultation process. But the ministry staff has mostly presented designs for a single option of moving vehicles north and south through the intersection without traffic lights. The GTCA task group presented an option that considered focusing on moving traffic slightly differently than the ideas proposed by ministry staff.
This consultation process has been going on for only a few months, a short time frame especially for a volunteer organization such as ours.
We have been working with staff in good faith given our community will experience the biggest negative impact if this project is not done right. Instead, it appears that the ministry has given more weight to drivers and a small fringe group within our neighbourhood and pushed aside our work to actually contribute positively to this process.
We feel our solutions will actually do a better job of moving traffic from Highway 1 to Highway 17, which should be given a higher priority than the inbound traffic for two reasons.
First, we all want to encourage vehicles to connect between these two highways and not to use neighbourhood routes, such as Helmcken/Wilkinson or Burnside West. Further, we do not see any advantage in encouraging more traffic to use the Douglas corridor when the actual plan is to make the route more transit and multi-modal friendly.
After being rebuffed by ministry staff, we felt we had no choice but to ask Saanich, through their citizen advisory committees, to assist us in working to get a better project for all.
We developed a presentation, and attended four separate advisory committees and a very long Saanich council session in order gain their public support. Troubling, this was the first opportunity for Saanich council to consider this issue in the public realm.
We feel this process has not been respectful with regard to our local community or to the community association as the voice for our community.
The abrupt and swift dismissal of the concerns of Saanich council without any discussion with them or any serious consideration of their views or those of the local community is emblematic of the lack of consideration and respect that has been accorded to us.
The whole process exemplifies poor planning and poor consultation, and needs to be halted and properly reviewed.
Robert Wickson, president
Gorge Tillicum Community Association