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'Unreal traffic': Ongoing congestion in Sooke sparks petition

The petition, which calls for immediate action on “gridlock” in the community, has attracted a thousand signatures so far.
web1_sooke-congestion-june-13-2024 THUMB
Highway 14 at Glinz Lake Road, looking east, during the Thursday afternoon commute. DRIVEBC.CA

Commuters in Sooke frustrated by traffic congestion are signing a petition calling for immediate action on “gridlock” in the community.

The petition, created last week by Sooke resident Susan Jones, already has 1,000 signatures, and Jones hopes to get more than twice that number.

She said she expects many people will sign today, when traffic is typically heavy with weekend travellers.

“People are going to be choked sitting in even more-choked traffic,” Jones said.

The only way in and out of Sooke is Highway 14, also known as Sooke Road, with bottlenecks such as the Sooke River bridge, where the number of lanes drops to two from four.

The afternoon commute has become a particular problem.

The District of Sooke said that discussions with the Ministry of Transportation about the congestion are ongoing, but issues remain despite $87 million for realignment and safety work on Sooke Road that began in 2021.

Sooke has approached the ministry about additional safety improvements to Sooke Road in the Saseenos area.

The district said a carpool group has been formed, and while carpooling doesn’t work for everyone, it’s something commuters could consider doing at least a few times a month.

Sooke Mayor Maja Tait said the idea of an alternate route to Sooke Road has been raised again in advance of this fall’s provincial election.

Jones, who runs a Sooke-based web-design company, said her clientele has been feeling the effects of the traffic congestion.

“So many of my customers are in the Sooke area or in the Langford area or in Victoria and they’re getting hammered,” Jones said. “They’re having to pay their employees time-and-a-half to sit in unreal traffic and it’s affecting their business.”

Sooke Chamber of Commerce past-president Mike Menard, who runs Menard Plumbing and Heating, said the traffic congestion is definitely “contentious” for residents.

“I suffer along with everybody else,” he said. “I just think that the municipality is going to need to act on it sooner rather than later. It’s already a major issue.”

Not only does heavy traffic hinder people from getting to appointments and making deliveries on time, it could create problems for emergency vehicles trying to get through, said Jones, adding prolonged idling from lines of vehicles is hard on the environment and air quality.

Jones said the District of Sooke deserves credit for an initiative aimed at speeding up road improvements on Charters Road that had been tying up traffic. Rock crushing needed for the work will be done on-site rather than some distance away, which will reduce the time spent transporting materials.

“It’s small steps like that that are going to make the difference in the short run,” Jones said.

She suggested another helpful move would be for the provincial government to create a central space for office workers living in Sooke, rather than requiring them to commute to Victoria.

“And for larger employers like hotels, they could put together a shuttle-bus service for their employees.”

Tait said the Charters Road project had to be done right away because “the road is breaking apart,” and there is a limited window for doing the work without harming fish in Charters Creek.

As for Sooke Road, she said the municipality has been talking with the Sooke School District about improving access to schools along the highway to help with traffic flow.

There have also been joint efforts to ease school-related traffic by increasing the number of students walking to schools, Tait said.

The municipality and school district are working together, for example, to chart the best options for walking and other modes of active transportation around École Poirier Elementary.

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