Coun. Judy Brownoff called on the provincial government to consult with Saanich over plans for a southbound, bus-only lane running through the municipality along Highway 1. (Black Press File)

Saanich raises concerns over cyclist safety for bus-lane design

Coun. Judy Brownoff said Douglas Street is not a highway, even if it is defined as one

Saanich wants the provincial government to pay specific attention to the safety of pedestrians and cyclists when it comes to designing a bus-only lane on Highway 1.

The appeal appears in a letter that Saanich council will write to provincial authorities after they (along with federal and regional authorities) announced the Southbound Bus Lanes Project in March 2019.

The project — which will receive $4.9 million from the provincial government and $11 million from Ottawa — will add a bus-only southbound lane between the Burnside bridges and Tolmie Avenue to match a northbound lane completed in December 2019.

RELATED: Bus-lane project for Greater Victoria continues with federal funding

While the project falls under provincial authority, Saanich and its residents will have to deal with its effects (including increased traffic and noise during and after construction), a point the public heard Monday several times as council signed off on the letter which describes the Douglas Corridor as an “urban roadway and not a highway.”

“As one of the speakers [during public input] said, this is entering Saanich,” said Coun. Judy Brownoff. “There is a lot of action in this area…Saanich has very strong goals around this corridor, especially around Uptown. I would say that this [area] has probably more activity there than, say, Blanshard Street right now.”

It is against this background that the province should pay special attention to the needs of the area and its residents, which have also raised concerns about traffic noise, a point staff plan to take up with their provincial counterparts.

“It’s not a highway, even though it is defined as a highway,” said Brownoff. “There are too many pedestrians, cyclists, shoppers, everybody around that corridor. Once we do [the Uptown Douglas Corridor Plan], it will be even more congested.”

Within this context, Saanich’s letter calls on the province to include “dedicated pedestrian and cycling facilities that meet modern and progressive design standards” and give priority to the “principles and priorities of Road Safety BC, the BC Active Transportation Strategy, and the Clean BC Plan” to this and future projects under the auspice of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

With this language, Saanich sends a clear message that it also expects provincial consultation on the South Island Transportation Plan, an ambitious, long-term plan to address regional transportation challenges. The public heard from Saanich that provincial staff have been incorporating municipal feedback, but not always.

Saanich’s appeal to the province has revived questions about whether the municipality would ever purchase that stretch of Highway 1 — an issue Brownoff addressed, but also dismissed.

“I know that Saanich has looked at something like this in this past,” she said. But it would also be very expensive, she added. “It is not part of this motion.”

wolfgang.depner@saanichnews.com

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