A key section of Highway 14 will be expanded to four lanes with a median barrier, in an effort by the provincial and federal governments to improve the flow of traffic between Langford and Sooke and prevent drivers from being stranded by a major crash.
The 1.5-kilometre stretch between Glinz Lake Road and Connie Road will be realigned and widened, Premier John Horgan announced Tuesday.
Wider shoulders will also be built between Otter Point Road and Woodhaven Road west of Sooke, he said.
The highway upgrades will be paid for with $30 million from the federal government and $55 million from the province.
“We’re making improvements to Sooke Road for the safety of people who travel back and forth to Victoria,” Horgan said, standing in a parking lot near the 17 Mile Pub.
“Over the next two years, we’re going to see real improvements here.”
The work is in the Langford-Juan de Fuca riding, which is represented by the premier.
Sooke Mayor Maja Tait said after years of calling for safety improvements, she’s happy to see a major investment from the province and federal government.
“This is the most dangerous section of Sooke Road, so after years of advocacy efforts, I’m really glad to see that a significant dollar amount is being invested in our community,” Tait said.
Wider shoulders will make it easier for fire trucks, ambulances and police cars to respond to emergencies and will allow traffic police to set up speed traps.
A new park and ride, with access controlled by a traffic light, will be built on Gillespie Road to encourage drivers to hop on public transit or car pool.
The stretch of Highway 1 between Leigh Road and West Shore Parkway will be widened from three lanes to four and a new permanent median barrier will separate traffic. A new northbound through lane will also be constructed at the West Shore Parkway intersection.
The changes come after Langford Mayor Stew Young called for immediate action in light of two deaths in head-on crashes in the span of a month. Thomas Lindenau, a 24-year-old Nanaimo man, was killed in a head-on crash on Feb. 3, and a driver whose name has not been released died after a crash in the same area on Jan. 8.
In March, reflective delineators were installed as a temporary measure until a permanent barrier is erected.
Horgan offered his respects to the families of the two drivers and said he hopes the changes will “make sure that does not happen again.”
Twenty-six property owners will be affected by the Highway 14 expansion between Glinz Lake Road and Connie Road, six of whom will have their land expropriated by the government.
Five of the six owners have agreed on a fair market price, Horgan said, and negotiations are still underway with the sixth.
Eric Boucher, chairman of the North Sooke Community Association, said one of his neighbours has been approached about selling her home, but she’s hesitant because she doubts she can find a comparable home for the price being offered.
“She’s still at a loss to figure out what she’s going to do with her life,” Boucher said.
“She’s going to be one of the unfortunate casualties in this process.”
Mike and Maureen Simms have lived on a one-acre property at the corner of Sooke Road and Glinz Lake Road for the past 23 years. The couple has not yet been told how much property the government will need to acquire, but they know some of their front yard will be shaved off when the highway expands.
“We’re not losing all of our property— we’ll probably lose the front for a right-turn lane,” Maureen Simms said.
The Simms and Boucher would have preferred to see the provincial government carve out an alternate route through the Sooke Hills rather than expand Highway 14.
Maureen Simms asked Ministry of Transportation staff how she’ll be able to make a left from her driveway onto the highway to head to Victoria. No answer was given and staff said they’d get back to her about whether there would be a U-turn route for residents affected by the new median.
Simms also asked when the first shovels will be in the ground and was told construction will likely start in January.
Negotiations have not yet begun with the 20 people who will lose a portion of their properties, because the exact impact still needs to be determined through engineering work, Horgan said.
“Keep in mind, tens of thousands of people’s lives will be better as a result of this highway improvement,” he said, adding that while it’s disappointing for individuals to lose their properties, “at the end of the day, we have to look at what’s in the greater good.”
Tait said while she understands the concerns of affected property owners, the overarching goal is to make Highway 14 safer for the 14,000 people who use it everyday.
“We’ve had fatalities on this road, people have been significantly injured, their lives have been altered,” she said. “I’d like to really think about them and their families at the same time. They don’t have a voice in this matter.”
Horgan said he believes the process has been fair and transparent, with ministry staff knocking on the doors of the 26 homeowners instead of letting them learn about the expansion plans through the media.
The Transportation Ministry held an open house last June and there was a one-month public consultation period.
In a statement, the ministry said widening the entire corridor to four lanes is not part of current planning, “as it would present a number of significant challenges.”
Last year, the provincial government announced $10 million in upgrades to Highway 14, including new transit pullouts, a queue-jump lane at Jacklin Road, safety signs, the addition of traffic lights at Sooke River Road, improvements to a two-kilometre stretch of Otter Point Road and the Sombrio rest area, and a slow-moving-vehicle pullout at Muir Creek. Upgrades also included a new two-lane bridge on Gillespie Road at Roche Cove, a key alternate route when crashes or traffic clogs Highway 14.
Horgan said 90 per cent of those projects are now complete.
Note: This story has been changed to correct the amount of money provided by the federal and provincial governments.