The ministry of transportation and infrastructure is looking to alleviate some of the weekend congestion on the Malahat stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway. (Google Maps)

The ministry of transportation and infrastructure is looking to alleviate some of the weekend congestion on the Malahat stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway. (Google Maps)

Ministry looks to fix Malahat traffic woes

Crews will no longer stop traffic on Fridays

With July almost completely in the rear view and the August long weekend not too far on the horizon, motorists won’t be getting any relief from construction delays on the Malahat. But the ministry of transportation and infrastructure is looking at keeping those delays minimal.

Residents caught in the traffic expressed their frustration on social media last weekend, with drivers reporting up to two-hour delays from Langford to the summit, especially on Friday.

Janelle Erwin, a deputy director with the ministry, said they are working on ways to keep traffic flowing through the construction.“We’ve certainly been keeping a close eye on that corridor … [and] we’re trying to evaluate what made this past Friday different,” she said. “We had delays upwards of two hours.”

The province is working on $34 million worth of improvements to increase safety on a five-kilometre stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway that passes through the Malahat Village, just south of the Cowichan Valley. The project includes expanding the roadway to four lanes from two with wider shoulders and installing three kilometres of median barriers while also providing improved access from side roads. The work is expected to be completed by fall 2018.

The ministry has taken a look at the project and Erwin noted the contractor doing the work will no longer be allowed to stop traffic on Fridays. Before they were allowed stoppages of up to five minutes to safely move equipment around the site or for blasting.

“That’s not going to be permitted any longer,” she noted, adding “delays are not something we wish to impose on drivers.”

But they will be a reality during this project, and Erwin said the ministry is working to keep them at less than 20 minutes for motorists.

While eliminating stoppages on Fridays is expected to alleviate a significant amount of that congestion, she noted they are also looking at the possibility of at least partially reopening a northbound lane that was closed near Aspen Road. “We’re also assessing that broader perspective.”

Erwin noted crews have already done significant work grubbing, clearing and blasting on the site with three major rock outcrops targeted by blasting crews for the coming months. “There’s lots of work ahead,” she added.

katie@goldstreamgazette.com