Upcoming changes to Helmcken Road are set to be a mixed blessing for drivers, as extra congestion is created while improvements are made to traffic calming.
Since the beginning of the application process for the Eagle Creek Village development from Omicron, traffic has been a primary concern for View Royal council and staff.
“The north side of Helmcken, coming down from the Burnside Road intersection, has been a raceway,” said Mayor Graham Hill. “Town council has been berated pretty heavily, ‘please fix this and make it better.’”
Designs for what the changes will look like have now been approved by council.
Underground parking, a roundabout on Watkiss Way at the entrance to Victoria General Hospital, carefully designed entrances and exits and other steps will be put in place to minimize the Eagle Creek development’s impact on local traffic.
On Helmcken Road heading north, there will be two left-turn lanes onto Watkiss Way, heading towards the hospital, compared to the one there new. Two through-traffic lanes will remain.
Heading south, towards the Trans-Canada Highway, the section of Helmcken Road intersecting with Watkiss Way will be reduced from two through-traffic lanes to one, along with a left-turn lane at the intersection.
Currently one lane becomes two before the intersection, and three after, with the right-hand lane turning onto the highway heading north.
“We’re delaying that point in which one lane expands to three,” said Kim Anema, View Royal’s chief administrator. “There’s been a number of accidents in that stretch from Burnside to Watkiss, and by eliminating that one lane we’re going to be calming the traffic more.”
Lanes in both directions will be narrowed and traffic calming features, such as boulevards and median improvements, will be added on the north side of the Watkiss/Helmcken intersection, along with bike lanes and improved pedestrian walkways.
Drivers coming from Saanich heading towards the Trans-Canada Highway can expect increased traffic and delays as a result of the changes.
Hill sees this as a necessary cost for progress and said with the new Craigflower Bridge opening this summer, traffic flow in this part of the region will improve.
Regardless of immediate increased inconvenience, Hill said it is reality for a development that will be a boon to local services and the local economy.
“Where in the local region is traffic not a problem? Is this a new issue? The answer is no,” Hill said. “Traffic is like water, it will flow where it can go, and we’re not sure what the uptake will be.
“Commercial development is going to continue as people want to move here. And I think that our transportation issues are going to be with us for some time, on a regional basis.”