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Excavators start digging in for long-awaited Keating overpass

The $76.8-million Keating flyover project is expected to be complete in about two years

Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor wasn’t even born when the community started calling for a new overpass on the Pat Bay Highway at Keating Cross Road.

So when the excavators started tearing into the embankments on the edge of the busy highway Tuesday, the 43-year-old mayor was understandably all smiles.

“It’s a great relief that after 49 years since this project was first brought up — four years before I was born — this project will now make Highway 17 safer as we eliminate the at-grade left turn,” said Windsor. “It’s been a long time coming.”

The $76.8-million Keating flyover project, expected to be complete in about two years, is being funded by the province, which is kicking in the lion’s share of $57.6 million. The federal government is contributing $16.7 million and the District of Central Saanich is providing $2.5 million.

At a new conference, Transportation Minister Rob Fleming called the Pat Bay Highway one of the region’s most important connections, linking Islanders to ferries, flights, future rapid bus service and major employment centres along the Saanich Peninsula.

“Those driving through the area need a route they can count on,” said Fleming. “This overpass will eliminate the possibility of a collision between vehicles travelling in opposite directions, making travel easier and safer for everyone while significantly improving the flow of goods and people.”

The Pat Bay Highway sees more than 52,000 vehicles daily — up to 4,000 vehicles per hour at peak times.

The project will also include realigning the southbound on-ramp to Victoria and closing Highway 17 access at East Saanich Road and Martindale Road.

The northbound left turn onto Keating Cross Road will be replaced with a separated ­overpass. Keating Cross Road will be widened and sidewalks added, and bus-on-shoulder facilities will be installed for future rapid transit on the Pat Bay Highway.

Elimination of the dangerous left turn onto Keating is expected to reduce collisions and bring more businesses and employees into the Central Saanich area, said Windsor.

Windsor said about 3,100 people work in Central Saanich, and another 2,500 jobs are expected to be added in the coming decades with a quicker and safer access at the gateway to the community.

The project was identified in the South Island Transportation Study as a priority. In addition to improving safety, it’s expected to reduce idling times, handle increased traffic demand and improve access to the Keating business and industrial area.

According to data from the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, there were 45 crashes at Keating Cross Road and the Pat Bay Highway between 2018 and 2022 — the third-highest in Central Saanich behind Mount Newton and the highway, at 142, and Island View and the highway, at 98.

Central Saanich Police Chief Ian Lawson called the Keating turnoff from the highway “one of our most dangerous areas for traffic in the district.

“Having a flyover project to alleviate people having to turn left across oncoming traffic coming up a grade is something we support,” said Lawson, adding that during the news conference alone, he counted more than 100 commercial trucks going by.

“[That] gives you a sense of what’s coming off the highway,” he said. “When they were going through the initial reviews of this, I went with one of our traffic members to see the traffic coming over and it was just a constant train of commercial vehicles. So you can imagine those vehicles have to turn left off a provincial highway to get on to Keating. It’s very, very dangerous.”

Lawson said cyclists and pedestrians have also tried to walk across the highway to get onto Keating, jumping over concrete barriers and putting themselves at risk.

The province said the fly­over design was chosen over a full interchange because it has the smallest footprint of the design options and would require the least amount of land in the agricultural land reserve.

It negotiated with Central Saanich landowners to acquire parts of 17 properties to accommodate the work, including two entire parcels of land and partial pieces of 15 other sites.

What travellers can expect during construction

• The southbound on-ramp from Keating Cross Road to Highway 17 will remain closed throughout the construction period.

• Passenger traffic will access the highway via a detour from Central Saanich Road to Tanner Road.

• Commercial traffic and tour buses will be detoured to Central Saanich Road along the existing truck route.

• Access to Martindale Road from Highway 17 is permanently closed, with access available from Gliddon Road.

• Nightly lane closures will happen in each direction along Highway 17 between Tanner Road and Island View Road, resulting in single-lane traffic from 7 p.m. until 6 a.m. northbound, and single-lane traffic from 9 p.m. until 6 a.m. southbound.

• The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and the District of Central Saanich are working with the RCMP, local police and commercial vehicle safety and enforcement on speed control and enhanced enforcement through the detour area.

• The ministry will monitor key intersections and has the ability to adjust light timing and other control measures, if needed, to help ease congestion and increase safety.

• Night work is expected to be in place for extended periods during the first year of construction.

• Travellers should visit DriveBC for the most up-to-date traffic pattern changes, traffic impacts and information on detour routes.

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