Province launches feasibility study on possible Malahat emergency route
B.C.'s transportation ministry says a feasibility study on a possible emergency route around the Malahat Highway will be complete in spring 2019.
The ministry released details of the study Wednesday as part of its new southern Vancouver Island transportation strategy, which aims to improve traffic flow in the region.
"We know that southern Vancouver Island is one of the fastest-growing regions in the province," transportation minister Claire Trevena said in a statement. "For too long, the infrastructure needs of the communities there have been ignored. It is time we start investing in long-term, innovative, multi-modal solutions to address congestion, while respecting and honouring the wishes and rights of local First Nations."
The province has issued a request for qualifications on its BC Bid website to short-list three consultants who would design the transportation plan for the Capital Region.
Those three consultants would then be sent a request for proposals in February, with the successful bid being chosen by the end of March.
The ministry says part of the plan will include exploring "potential emergency detour routes that could be activated in the event of a Malahat road closure," and that it's working with the Capital Regional District and other stakeholders to look at all possible detour options.
"The board appreciates the efforts to address transportation needs and assist people getting around faster on the South Island," Colin Plant, CRD board chair, said in a statement. "The CRD will want to ensure the protection of the integrity of the regional water supply lands, which provide drinking water for much of our region."
If a suitable emergency route is identified, engineering work could begin by summer.
The possibility of building a route through the Sooke Hills Wilderness Park Reserve has already ruffled the feathers of CRD director Ben Isitt.
He wrote on Facebook on the weekend that the Malahat already has two alternative routes – the Brentwood Bay-Mill Bay ferry and the Pacific Marine Circle Route.
"Both present some challenges in terms of time, capacity and convenience. However, I believe that the Sooke Hills Wilderness Park Reserve is an amazing ecological and recreational asset that must be defended," wrote Isitt. "I am therefore going to fight the proposal to ram a highway through the wilderness."
The transportation ministry says it's also in the process of contracting out the design phase of the Malahat-Goldstream Park median barrier project, which will add an additional 1.5 kilometres of median on the highway north of West Shore Parkway to Finlayson Arm Road.
The ministry says the project will also look at transportation like cycling, transit, pedestrian movements, marine and ferry travel and rail in addition to existing roadways.