Motorists travelling over the Malahat next week can expect delays while crews widen a section of the notorious highway and install concrete medians.
It's all part of an $8million safety-improvement project announced in March.
A 2.1-kilometre section of four-lane road known as Tunnel Hill or Peden's Stretch will be reduced to two lanes during the construction period - Tuesday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. That will put a squeeze on the average 26,000 vehicles that travel the Malahat each day.
Sections of both passing lanes will be closed overnight in both directions.
The temporary lane closings mean that during the day, northbound traffic will have only a short section of uphill passing lanes available between Goldstream Provincial Park and the construction area. The northbound passing lane will resume at Aspen Road.
During construction, the passing lane at Tunnel Hill will be closed Tuesday to Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. There will be limited opportunity to pass slowmoving traffic on the Malahat from the summit south to Goldstream Park.
Traffic jams on the Malahat are common even with passing lanes open. The volume of southbound traffic heading over the Malahat on Monday evening, the end of a holiday weekend, was so heavy that cars were bumpertobumper from Bamberton Hill to Goldstream Park.
Commuter traffic is usually lighter when schools aren't in session, but in summer, there's a sharp increase in slow-travelling recreational vehicles. Commercial vehicles that travel slowly uphill also increase delays and frustration for motorists caught behind.
Despite the inconvenience, new medians will improve the highway's safety, said Rob Patterson, chief of the Malahat Volunteer Fire Department.
"It will just be three or four days where they won't have much of a passing lane until they get north of Aspen Road," said Patterson. "Southbound, it's going to keep traffic a little bit congested and a little bit slower, I'm hoping."
He urged motorists to slow down and use common sense and courtesy during construction: "It will make life easier for everybody."
Const. Michael Furlong of Shawnigan Lake RCMP said the medians are needed to help prevent head-on crashes, and the lane closings will have less impact during the week than on weekends.
"It's unfortunate that they have to do it during business hours, but if it's got to be done, it's got to be done," said Furlong.
"Better to do it all at one time than to leave it half finished, and create more of a hazard."
The safety-improvement project has already seen the installation of medians on a 1.4-kilometre section of highway north of Goldstream Park, which involved reducing two northbound lanes to one.
The additional 5.4 kilometres of median means when the project is complete next year, median barriers will run along 40 per cent of the Malahat.
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