Sooke Hills eyed for Malahat emergency route? Province remains tight-lipped
CTV Vancouver Island
Published Friday, January 4, 2019 5:08PM PST
Last Updated Friday, January 4, 2019 7:13PM PST
The B.C. government is expected to announce a study on whether an emergency route around the Malahat Highway could be carved out of the Sooke Hills, CTV News has learned.
The Ministry of Transportation confirmed Thursday that it would release more information soon on the possibility of a second route bypassing the Malahat that could be used in emergencies like car crashes or rock slides.
Many drivers called for a second option following two separate crashes that shut down the route for eight and 11 hours, respectively, within months of each other last year.
On Friday, sources told CTV News that the ministry plans to launch a feasibility study looking at the costs and risks of an emergency route on one of several logging roads between Sooke Lake and Shawnigan Lake that run parallel to the highway.
Chris Foord, vice-chair of the Capital Regional District's traffic safety commission, has been an outspoken critic of the Malahat Highway and says it's past time that a second route be added.
"It's absolutely critical," Foord said. "Let's face it, the Malahat is 352 metres, I think, is what the summit is. It's not a mountain folks, it's more like an engineering mole hill."
The transportation ministry is remaining tight-lipped on the announcement other than a statement it issued Friday reiterating that it "continues to work with all stakeholders, including the Capital Regional District, to ensure all possible detour options for the Malahat are being explored."
The Province expected to announced next week details about plans to explore an emergency alternative to the Malahat. Likely a study of the costs & risks of turning one of the logging roads in the area between Sooke Lake and Shawnigan Lake into an emergency route. @CTVNewsVI— Robert Buffam (@CTVNewsRob) January 5, 2019
Sonia Furstenau, MLA for Cowichan Valley, has also previously called for an alternative to the Malahat when disasters strike.
"I think this past summer really demonstrated the need for an alternative route," she said. "We had several closures, one of them lasting the better part of a day."
Some of the 25,000 drivers who use the arterial route daily shared that opinion, telling CTV News they didn't see a downside to having an emergency backup.
Commuters will have to wait several more days for the province to announce details of the study.