The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) is ignoring a safety report that they commissioned regarding a non-conforming intersection affected by the McKenzie Interchange project, say local residents. The report says the intersection at Admirals Road and Esson Road is dangerous.
George and Vicki Blogg have lived in the area bordered by Highway 1 and Admirals Road for 30 years and were involved in previous McKenzie Interchange designs. They were on the 1996 committee and have stayed engaged ever since.
The main access road to their community, Portage Road, has been blocked off for the new pedestrian walk-way as part of the new interchange design. This forces residents to use Esson Road which requires a hairpin right turn off Admirals Road.
The intersection is also at the base of a 12 per cent grade on Esson Road and Admirals Road is at a 9 per cent grade, says George, the president of the Portage Inlet Sanctuary Colquitz Estuary Society (PISCES). He and his wife refer to Esson Road as a “toboggan path” and feel that a tragedy is going to unfold at the intersection.
Esson Road is not only at a sharp angle with Admirals Road, it’s also compounded by two residential driveways and poor sight lines, says Vicki, PISCES secretary and treasurer. School children also frequently use the intersection when crossing the road while walking to Marigold, Spectrum and St. Joseph schools.
Some 200 residents are afraid that they’ll be rear-ended turning off Admirals Walk onto Esson Road because there is no right turn lane, George explains.
“People behind you get angry when you slow down, but if you don’t, your turn is too wide and you end up in oncoming traffic,” he says.
The new interchange will also increase the number of cars coming down Admirals Road and they will likely be going faster than they are now, says Vicki.
The original Road Safety Audit (RSA) done by MoTI in March 2016 made no mention of the closure of Portage Road or its impacts, Vicki explains. Concerned, the Bloggs contacted the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to begin talks of making the intersection safer.
Consultation started in 2017 and the Bloggs met with representatives from MoTI many times. They’d come to the Bloggs’ home for coffee and discuss the issues. George says they felt like they were talking to friends who cared.
As a result of the safety concerns, further RSA were commissioned by MoTI. The most recent was completed by SNC-Lavalin on Jan. 4, 2019.
The last time PISCES met with MoTI was in November 2018 when they met to discuss a draft of the report. At that time, the two options for improving the safety of the intersection were presented along with several geometric design changes.
The Bloggs were happy with the report because it meant they’d been heard and that the safety of the intersection would be improved. Or so they thought.
“From early 2019 we had been requesting updates and were awaiting MoTI‘s final decision as to which option they would proceed with,” says Vicki.
On April 3, they received an email from from Michael Pearson, District Manager for Vancouver Island, with MoTI’s final report on the matter dated Jan. 4 stating that they acknowledge that the SNC-Lavalin report recommends several safety changes at the intersection to calm traffic and make right turns off Admirals Road safer. However, Pearson concluded that the “changes are not within the current scope of the Mckenzie project.”
“I appreciate the importance of this issue to PISCES and the time and effort you have put into working with us on this report, I don’t see a need for further meeting to discuss the report or its findings at this time,” wrote Pearson.
“We’ve always been in favour of the upgrades and the highway project. We’ve supported the project. We thought that we were working with them and they were working with us and we were working towards a goal,” says George. “We feel like the rug has been pulled out from underneath us.”
They were under the impression that the final decisions would be safety option one, a bike lane with a buffer which could act as a partial right turn lane, or option two which included a right-turn lane for drivers to decelerate. They weren’t aware there was a third option which involved doing nothing.
“I don’t want to be in an accident,” says George. He worries that if something isn’t done before the interchange project is completed, that nothing will ever be done.
“We all know when they walk away from a project like this, they’re not coming back and if they claim it’s out of the scope of the project now, why would it ever be in the scope of the project in the future?”
PISCES assumed that money was the reason MoTI decided not to move forward with the safety improvements as the project is now $11 million over budget, but it has never been confirmed.
David Farmer, a local resident, feels that Premier John Horgan may need to get involved to push the safety improvements through.
Saanich Mayor, Fred Haynes has been supportive of PISCES and the group is meeting with Victoria-Swan Lake MLA, Rob Fleming next week. George hopes no one involved will give up hope.
“Lives matter and safety has to become a priority and they have a responsibility,” says George. “[MoTI] cut off our primary road. They’re forcing us to into a more dangerous situation than we were before the project and that, to me, is unacceptable.”