The Malahat was closed eight times between January and September of 2018. Closure times vary drastically for a variety of reasons such as police investigations, geotechnical risks, environmental clean-up efforts and more. (Twitter/Joel Rushworth)

Province says no to alternative route for Malahat

Environmental, property, engineering and community disruption cited

An alternative detour route for the Malahat isn’t coming down the pipeline anytime soon, according to a study by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

“All routes were determined to have environmental, engineering, property and community disruption impacts — some to greater degrees than others,” says the study released Monday.

The report looks at seven possible emergency routes that could be activated during long highway closures.

It pointed out that closures on the Malahat long enough to trigger calls for a detour were too infrequent, around 1.1 incidents a year on average.

Approximately 22,000 vehicles travel through the traffic artery daily.

READ MORE: Study on Malahat road closures expected by end of year

Since 2009, there have been 40 closures on the Malahat, of which seven were longer than four hours. The longest was 21 hours.

The Pacific Marine Circle Route, which takes an extra 3.5 hours to drive, remains the main detour in the event of a long highway closure.

“We have to stop focusing on what we can’t control, like mother nature, and instead focus on what we can,” said Chris Foord, vice chair of the Capital Regional District Traffic Safety Commission.

Foord pointed out that speed is one of his biggest concerns.

More than a dozen vehicles were impounded for seven days on Sunday, Dec. 8 for excessive speed while travelling southbound on the Malahat into Victoria.

“We only put about five hours enforcement out there, and if you do the math we’re getting almost [four] an hour,” said Acting Staff Sgt. Ron Cronk, of the Integrated Road Safety Unit. He added that it’s a continuous problem for that stretch of the highway.

This doesn’t include the multiple instances semi-trucks have had trouble along the narrow route.

Last month, a confused semi driver went the wrong way on the Malahat and backed up traffic in both directions on Nov. 12. Then, a stalled truck near Ice Cream Mountain heavily delayed southbound traffic on Nov. 28.

Mother nature and the Malahat aren’t strangers. On Nov. 17, a small rockslide stopped northbound lanes for four hours and on Nov. 27, a fallen tree paused northbound lanes for two hours.

RELATED: An alternate route for Malahat shouldn’t go through Sooke watershed, says CRD director

Currently, work is underway on a project to widen Highway 1 between Leigh Road and the West Shore Parkway, which will include adding a centre median barrier.

The province is also looking at adding 1.5 kilometres of median barrier to the highway north of the West Shore Parkway to just north of Finlayson Arm Road.

Read the full report at bit.ly/malahatstudy.

aaron.guillen@goldstreamgazette.com


@iaaronguillen
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