EDITORIAL: With bridge work comes gridlock

Craigflower Bridge reconstruction offers opportunity to look at other transportation options

When Craigflower Bridge closes today for at least eight months, for much of the commuting public it might seem like déjà vu all over again.

For three months in the summer of 2009, Saanich rebuilt Admirals Bridge, forcing thousands of drivers to find a new route into Victoria, Esquimalt and Dockyard.

The following year, View Royal began its Island Highway Improvement Project, causing a solid year of Mainland-level commuter gridlock as roadwork pushed hundreds of cars each morning onto the Trans-Canada Highway.

Today, another long public infrastructure project begins where drivers will cram onto already busy arteries, such as the TCH, Tillicum Road, Helmcken Road and Island Highway.

Replacing Craigflower Bridge is a project that needs to be done. At 80 years old, it carries on the order of 18,000 vehicles per day and is held up by rickety-looking wood timbers. If it wasn’t replaced, it would eventually be closed for fear of falling down.

Much like previous road projects near Admirals-Craigflower, this is a good opportunity for commuters to carpool, to try transit or even ride a bike.

But much like the previous times, getting people out of their cars is difficult at best – most either changed their morning drive times or gritted their teeth in heavy traffic.

Besides eventually getting a wider, stronger bridge, there is another bright spot in this rebuild project. Thankfully the bridge owners, Saanich and View Royal, opted to build a temporary pedestrian span rather than the awful but considered idea of busing school kids and the public around the Gorge Waterway.

Having a pedestrian link is at least one saving grace for businesses in the Admirals Walk area, now surviving through a third major infrastructure project. The Admirals Bridge and Island Highway projects cut deep into their bottom lines. The Craigflower replacement will likely do the same.

Residents on the north side of the Gorge should take advantage of the crossing to visit their local merchants for what will likely be another tough year.