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Editorial: Traffic issues require regional outlook

We live on the pointy end of an island, literally caught between a rock and a hard place (and various fingers of the ocean), so traffic will always be a problem.

We live on the pointy end of an island, literally caught between a rock and a hard place (and various fingers of the ocean), so traffic will always be a problem. It’s a situation that should be alleviated with regional solutions, instead of fixes that merely push problems down the road.

When traffic backs up, drivers look for ways to get around the congestion. That’s the case in View Royal, where some drivers have become impatient with the time it takes to make a left turn onto the Island Highway from Helmcken Road. So they take a jog through a residential area by making an illegal left turn onto Rudyard Road then turning right onto Stormont Road, which connects to the Island Highway.

Those neighbourhood roads were not designed to handle commuter traffic. Residents find it a challenge to get in and out of their own driveways. Safety concerns arise; noise and pollution increase. It is not surprising that people would look to their municipality for solutions.

It’s not a new problem — View Royal council has been discussing it for more than a decade — but people in the area are concerned that construction of the McKenzie Avenue interchange will divert even more traffic onto their streets.

Some residents of the affected View Royal neighbourhood have suggested installing a barrier arm to prevent left turns from Helmcken onto Rudyard that would be lowered during rush hour, when such turns are illegal. According to the proposal, residents would have technology to open the gate, as would first responders.

They planned to present their proposal to View Royal council Tuesday night, but Mayor David Screech has expressed reservations about the idea, saying he is reluctant to gate a public street.

And it would be a local solution to a regional problem. It might alleviate traffic in one neighbourhood, but likely move it to another. Traffic is like water — it will always find a way to flow to its destination.

The View Royal problem is not unique. As congestion grows on the main thoroughfares, people will look for ways around the choke points, which means some roads become secondary thoroughfares, even though they are not designed for it. Installing barriers or “traffic-calming” measures is a local approach, when a regional approach is needed.

Don’t blame municipal councils for looking after their own interests. That’s what they were elected to do, and that’s all the power they have. They cannot impose solutions that cross municipal boundaries.

It’s another point in favour of a regional transportation authority. We don’t need more roundabouts, more barriers, more blocked streets. We need a process that looks at the region as a whole, that calculates how a development in one area will affect other areas. We don’t need special commuter buses to the downtown, but a wider look at public transit, surely one of the most important components of a regional traffic plan.

As long as we keep applying piecemeal solutions to traffic problems, we are treating symptoms, not the ailment.