$85-million McKenzie interchange project expected to start late 2016

Construction of an $85-million interchange at the congested McKenzie Avenue and Trans-Canada Highway intersection in Saanich is expected to begin in late 2016.

The long-awaited project and its provincial-federal funding was announced Wednesday in addition to three-way funding for a $22-million Westshore Parkway extension. That two-lane, 3.5-kilometre-long extension will run north-south connecting Highway 1 with Highway 14, also known as Sooke Road.

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Both projects have an estimated two-year completion window.

B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone said the combined $107 million in funding is going to have a major impact on quality of life, the movement of goods and services, and the environment on Vancouver Island. “It’s the package as a whole that we think will make a tremendous impact for the commuters and the folks who rely on this corridor.”

Vancouver Island North MP John Duncan, Stone and Langford Mayor Stew Young announced the funding at a news conference overlooking the McKenzie Avenue/Admirals Road/Trans-Canada intersection.

The intersection sees 90,000 vehicles a day and has a high volume of crashes, said Stone.

It suffers from congestion in many ways: Commuters headed into Victoria and out to the high-growth West Shore; traffic to and from McKenzie Avenue which leads to the University of Victoria; and vehicles to and from Admirals Road which leads to CFB Esquimalt.

“The No. 1 complaint from people in Greater Victoria and all the way up to Campbell River,” Stone said, “was the need to fix this bottleneck and get on with a project that’s been talked about for 30 years.”

B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan welcomed the federal investment. “There’s an old adage though [that] whenever you see the asphalt truck pulling up, you know there’s an election just around the corner,” he said. The federal election is expected to be held in October.

Duncan said past attempts to come to funding agreements for the project failed. But this year, the federal and provincial governments “had the same priority — it’s that simple,” Duncan said. “Both projects will be of assistance in relieving congestion on Highway 1.”

No design plans were released Wednesday, but Stone said the McKenzie interchange will be complemented by a high-occupancy lane that could be expanded into a bus lane. The interchange will also improve safety on the Galloping Goose trail, which crosses the intersection.

Design of the McKenzie overpass will depend on results from geotechnical, environmental and archeological assessments, and feedback from key stakeholders, including First Nations and nearby neighbourhoods, the Transportation Ministry said.

Stone said preliminary engineering work has begun.

He said creation of a plan to move traffic during construction will be an “interesting and complex project” but noted the government has much experience doing this.

“This is a major infrastructure project. It’s an $85-million improvement to this particular intersection that no question is going to have some impacts in the area that will need to be well understood and mitigated as best as possible.”

Langford Mayor Stew Young said the two projects are complementary and will improve life for residents and boost the economy.

The federal government will contribute up to $7.4 million to the extension of the Westshore Parkway. The B.C. government will also kick in up to $7.4 million, with Langford paying the remaining third.

Just as creation of Millstream Road benefited growth and development for the north side of Langford, the new link between Highway 1 and the highway to Sooke will benefit the south side, Young said. “That’s our economic stimulator for the next 20 years,” he said.

The Westshore Parkway project will also include integration of a middle turning lane where required, bike lanes on both sides, sidewalks in residential areas, installation of sewer and stormwater infrastructure, as well as streetlights, transit stops and boulevard medians.

Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell, who attended the announcement, said his municipality will benefit greatly from the project but it did not offer and was not asked for funding.

“It’s been 30 years in the making and it’s certainly a priority for residents,” Atwell said.

— With a file from Lindsay Kines

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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