With a provincial transportation study of the highway between Langford and Sooke underway, Langford Mayor Stew Young has some simple advice.
“What they need to do is get the study done as fast as they can and then get the project started,” said Young.
He said discussion about making improvements to that stretch of Sooke Road never seems to end.
“It’s been talked about longer than I’ve been a politician,” said the seven-term mayor. “And I think that they do need to make those improvements right away.”
About 14,000 vehicles travel the 22 kilometres between Langford and Sooke daily. Insurance Corp. of B.C. statistics show that there were 1,275 crashes on Sooke Road between Veterans Memorial Parkway in Colwood and Sooke River Road in Sooke from 2006 to 2015.
The parents of Carter Navarrete spoke out last year about a crash near the intersection of Sooke Road and Parkland Road that took his life, calling for improvements to deal with safety concerns. Another crash near Sooke and Parkland, on Dec. 29, killed Sooke resident Drew Ripley.
That intersection happens to be one of three — along with Sooke Road/Gillespie Road and Sooke Road/Connie Road — where upgrades such as new lights, better signs and enhanced road markings are being put in.
In all, $7.28 million has been spent from 2012 to 2016 for a range of Sooke Road improvements.
But traffic incidents continue to happen, Young said. “It’s damp, it’s cold, that road is not designed for the traffic of today and it needs an improvement.
“It’s kind of a dark, wet corridor and it’s bound to have more accidents on it, so they need to widen it out and they need to put shoulders on it.”
Sooke Mayor Maja Tait said the road-safety issue is prominent in people’s minds. “This time of year it’s particularly bad because the weather can really impact your visibility.”
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said in a statement that Highway 14 deserves attention. “Highway 14 is an essential corridor and we want to make it as safe as possible, not just for people in cars, but for people who take transit and people who bike and walk.”
The study that has been commissioned is looking at all aspects of road use, the ministry said. “The initial findings identified several safety and transit improvements that could be implemented over the next year or two, in addition to the work already underway.”
In light of the growing populations in Langford and Sooke, the ministry said, the study will be expanded to look at new ways to make travel along Highway 14 safer, more reliable, and more efficient. “As well, we’re expanding the study beyond Langford and Sooke to go all the way to Port Renfrew, and to include consultation with stakeholders to get their ideas for long-term improvements.”
Adding passing lanes and straightening curves are being considered.
Tait said she drives the highway two to three times a week, and notes that it can be a discomfort to people who are going to the hospital or medical appointments. “If you’re not well and if you have a family physician in the core, you might not go. If you’re in pain you’re going to feel every bump along the way.”
Young said Sooke Road is likely the most unsafe thoroughfare in the region. “I’m telling you right now that it’s a priority for Sooke and for Langford to fix that road.” Young said he makes his point of view about Sooke Road known whenever possible.
“I’m pushing it as hard as I can. I talk to the province about it. I’ve talked to everybody about it for the last 10 years.”