New ideas needed for the McKenzie intersection

Why are we designing changes to an intersection that gives no thought to the future?

The economy is headed for some of the biggest changes it has seen in a long time. There are so many competing complexities that very few people will be able to keep up with them all while managing their busy lives.

The first change is driven by the desire to reduce our energy consumption from fossil fuels. The oil shortages of the ‘70s have become surpluses. Demand for oil is changing dramatically even though the middle classes in India and China are growing. There will be a significant shift in production and a likely slowdown in supply expansion.

The second will be the shift in our transportation system. This shift has already begun with reductions in the number of new drivers seeking licences. Combine that with a push to find better ways to connect with personal needs through developing more walkable communities, the improved safety brought by technology with car sensors and driverless vehicles, and new retail systems that focus on shopping online, the motor vehicle industry will need to make dramatic changes. No matter what changes they make, I suspect they will become a much smaller part of the manufacturing sector

Given these two economic influences, why are we designing changes to an intersection that clearly only reflects what has been done for the last 60 years and gives no thought to the future.

There are two key things about the McKenzie intersection that need to be considered. It is a 50-year investment so we must focus on where we want our transportation to be in that time frame and be clear about what steps we must take to get us there.

The second need is to find relief for the current plugs. I say “plugs” because if you break it down, each one has standalone solutions. Traffic leaving town at night is the largest in terms of numbers with the combination of Victoria traffic meeting up with Saanich and Highway 17 vehicles. The short-term solution would be to remove the signal light for outbound traffic and extend the merge lane from McKenzie so that the zipper merge works properly.

The next priority should be the left turn on to McKenzie up to Burnside Road West. That also could be designed to exclude lights at both Highway 1 and the Burnside intersection. The removal of these lights will do more to relieve the congestion along McKenzie than adding a light with a double diamond design.

What must also be incorporated into the design are the pedestrian rights of way, high quality cycling amenities, and both improvements for current transit capabilities and space for future LRT.

These solutions to the plugs will do as much to relive the short-term congestion issue as anything that is being designed so far. Compared to what the provincial staff has presented, the ideas above will significantly reduce the environmental and land use footprint.

These ideas are based on the 25-year regional growth long-term plan that was passed 10 years ago. It is fundamentally important to respect the hard work of the community which worked to create the foundation for the region’s future.

When I hear some of the comments from drivers who are salivating for the pleasure of rushing through to the next traffic plug, I am reminded of my kids years ago that wanted to rush through dinner when there was chocolate pie for dessert. Let’s not rush to get our dessert before we have planned a proper healthy meal.

Rob Wickson