Having recently attended the VAA (Victoria Airport Authority) Information session relating to the proposed Gateway Project at Beacon and Highway 17, I feel compelled to speak out. Rather than an information gathering session it appeared to be presentation of a pre-determined real-estate project to meet the VAA mandate to increase income. The consequences of such a project will be harsh indeed for our Town.
The VAA proposal for a shopping centre is wrong for many reasons.
It would create a bifurcated commercial core. Traffic congestion crossing the highway would become even more difficult. It would compete directly with a struggling retail core already facing two shopping centre projects nearby.
Despite these issues a far more compelling and key reason needs to be addressed and that relates to the long standing need to solve the traffic intersection of the highway and Beacon Avenue.
The Town of Sidney was split asunder by the creation of the highway in the 1960s. Today as the Town of Sidney faces surging competition it is increasingly important that an attractive gateway to the Town be established and the east-west divide be resolved with a safe and people friendly way of blending two opposing streams of traffic. To do this needs a planned interchange. And to do this requires land. And unimproved land is what is available on the VAA site.
Placing an at-grade roundabout at this intersection using the VAA lands is by far the least costly, safest and best long-term solution. Unlike the $24 million McTavish grade-separated intersection, a well-designed at-grade roundabout would be a quarter of the cost. Throughout England, Europe, Australia and increasingly the U.S., at-grade roundabouts are recognized, for a host of reasons, as the traffic solution of choice.
If the Gateway shopping centre project proceeds as proposed by VAA the opportunity will be lost forever, except by costly expropriation of existing improvements. Our community needs to get involved and demand the roundabout traffic solution that is destined to be lost if we don’t grasp the opportunity now.