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Critic calls for new Malahat route

New design and alignment needed to meet the increase in road users

A transportation critic is calling on the provincial government to design a new route for the Malahat to help reduce the number of collisions.

Chris Foord, a transportation planner for the past 40 years, believes the current infrastructure on the Malahat is “totally inadequate” for the region and believes a new route should be carved out to replace the exisiting stretch of roadway.

“We should be embarking on designing a brand new alignment and new route up and over the Malahat, so that every fuel tanker that goes through the region doesn’t have to negotiate the windy, curvy road through Goldstream Park,” said Foord, who is also the vice chair of the Capital Regional District’s traffic safety commission. “I see this as a glaring deficiency. I see it like a giant sinkhole in the middle of the road that no one seems to notice.”

RELATED: Two-vehicle collision on Malahat sends driver to hospital, causes delays

Foord’s calls for action come after a two-vehicle crash on the Malahat on Monday.

According to West Shore RCMP, at around 1:30 p.m. a vehicle drifted into the on-coming lane, which caused the head-on collision.Both drivers suffered non-life threatening injuries and were transported to hospital.

It appeared the driver of the vehicle that drifted was suffering from a medical issue. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to collisions on the popular highway.

Earlier in August, a three-car crash happened when a southbound truck lost a tire and swerved into on-coming traffic. No one was seriously injured, but both crashes backed up traffic for hundreds of drivers.

Foord believes a new highway that would take drivers up through the watershed reserve land, and potentially infringe on Goldstream Park briefly would create a solution for drivers.

“The Malahat is a hill. It’s 355 metres, it’s not a mountain. I don’t think there’s any physical obstacles to designing a 120 kilometre right of way to take us up and over and down into the Cowichan Valley,” he said, adding there are roughly 22,000 to 30,000 vehicles, that drive on the provincially-owned roadway a day.

“At least choose a route and build it when we think we can almost afford it. There’s no point in doing nothing now. All we’re doing is putting Band-Aids on the existing Malahat … It’s time to do something pro-active and take a 100-year-look down the road.”

While speed was not a factor in the most recent collision, some believe more police enforcement is also necessary to catch many who are going 140 kilometres an hour in the 90 km/h zone.

RELATED: CRD continues call for Malahat speed cameras

Colin Plant, chair of the CRD’s traffic safety commission and a Saanich councillor, acknowledged there has been an “exponential growth in usage” on the Malahat.

The commission is currently working with the Cowichan Valley Regional District to ask the province to implement interval-based speed cameras along the highway.

As part of the trial study, cameras would record licence plates at various intervals to determine the vehicle’s speed.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said it has looked at different bridge options across the Saanich Inlet, as a possible alternative route to the Malahat, but a crossing of that size would cost upwards of $1 billion for the bridge and would have major environmental and logistical challenges.

“Construction of the safety improvements through the Malahat Village will continue through summer 2018. When completed, five kilometres of highway will be expanded to four lanes, with wider shoulders and safer intersections,” said the ministry in a statement. “As well, three kilometres of median barrier will be installed.”

kendra.wong@goldstreamgazette.com

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