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CFB Esquimalt schedule changes impacting traffic

A recent change to the work schedule of naval fleet personnel at CFB Esquimalt is churning out more late afternoon traffic onto Esquimalt streets, say some concerned residents.

Changes made by the head of the West Coast navy, Rear Admiral Nigel Greenwood prevent ship commanders from letting personnel leave work early, such as at 3:30 p.m. instead of 4 p.m., and from giving them "sliders" or Friday afternoons off.

The change ensures crew members are onboard to receive maintenance personnel who need to access the vessels, especially with the fleet entering a busy maintenance period, said Lt.-Cmdr. Nathalie Garcia, navy spokesperson.

“It affects closer to 1,000 (civilian and military personnel) that could at any one time have taken advantage of (sliders and early dismissals),” said Garcia. “For the vast majority of the workforce, it was the exception rather than the rule.”

Since that change came into effect Dec. 5, some Esquimalt residents have seen an increase in late afternoon traffic in the township, notably on Lyall Street and Old Esquimalt Road.

“What I have never, in my 18 years of living here, noticed ... is Lyall Street backed up from the base to Macaulay school going towards (Victoria),” said Meagan Brame, owner of Saxe Point Day Care and an Esquimalt councillor.

“From 4:15 to about 4:45 p.m., it’s bumper to bumper. I don’t think it lasts more than half an hour, but I can’t get off my street (Joffre Street south) onto Lyall," she said, adding the parents of children at her daycare have also noticed the increase.

“You can’t all of a sudden shove another 500 or 1,000 people on the road and say it’s not going to make a difference,” Brame said.

Officers based at the Victoria Police Department’s West Division in Esquimalt have also seen a recent spike in traffic.

“We haven’t received any complaints but we certainly are alive to the issue, and we will be talking to the military if anything does come up and work with them for any solutions,” said Const. Mike Russell, VicPD spokesperson.

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins hasn’t heard anything conclusive suggesting the change to the base schedule has boosted traffic levels at the end of the day, “other than when it gets tightened up, it gets tightened up significantly.”

But she said it will be important to monitor the flow of traffic, especially when Craigflower Bridge is eventually replaced and in the event of a hiring boon in 2012 at Victoria Shipyards at the Esquimalt graving dock.

An influx of more motorists on the road at the same time of day might “be the push that people need to say, ‘Ok, we need to deal with this,’” Brame said, adding that signals the urgency for a more proactive regional approach to address transportation woes in Greater Victoria.

“This is way bigger than Esquimalt.”

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