Residents of Portage Inlet are calling on the province to step in to address safety concerns related to the McKenzie interchange project after talks with the Ministry of Transportation (MoTI) have not gone as planned.
Since the interchange project was announced, the Portage Inlet Sanctuary Colquitz Estuary Society (PISCES) – a group representing residents near the interchange – has been involved in discussions with MoTI and the District of Saanich, said PISCES president George Blogg.
After more than three years of consultations and various road safety reports, Blogg said residents believed the ministry would address their concerns – specifically the safety of the Esson and Admirals roads intersection.
However, the most recent meeting between PISCES, MoTI staff and Saanich representatives at the construction site on Aug. 13 was “very disappointing,” Blogg said. The ministry said while some improvements will be completed along Admirals Road, the desired upgrades for the Esson Road intersection are not within the scope of the project.
In a written statement, MoTI said safety is “top priority” and that work is underway on Admirals Road “to further ensure the corridor is safe for people travelling by all modes of transportation.”
The ministry said the improvements that are within the scope of the project include the completion of continuous sidewalks, connecting bike lanes to existing infrastructure, improving sightlines at Esson Road and adding pavement markings along Admirals Road to guide road-users.
Blogg is frustrated about the lack of traffic calming measures at the Esson Road intersection because he feels the interchange project has made the area “significantly less safe.”
“With the aggravation and stress that this neighbourhood has gone through, you’d think they’d want to do something,” Blogg said. “You couldn’t find a more unsafe piece of road if you tried – it’s an accident waiting to happen.”
In a push for the desired changes, PISCES sent letters to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure and Premier John Horgan on Aug. 17 asking them to step in. They had not received a reply as of Aug. 31.
When asked about plans to address residents’ other concerns, MoTI said that the new traffic patterns in the area will be monitored to assess what improvements are needed and ensure changes are effective.
The ministry also pointed out Saanich has committed to addressing concerns at the Esson Road intersection.
Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes said it’s “unfortunate” the desired safety improvements can’t be made within the scope of the McKenzie interchange project but confirmed that improvements are planned for the area in 2021.