Bus-lane extension to speed commute to West Shore

Transit riders can expect a slightly faster commute to the West Shore this fall once work concludes to extend the northbound rapid bus lane on Douglas Street.

B.C. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena announced Wednesday that Jacob Bros. Construction Inc. of Surrey won the contract to build a priority bus lane from Tolmie Avenue to the Burnside Bridge, where Burnside and Interurban roads cross under the Trans-Canada Highway.

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The project was put on hold last year due to high bidding costs and the government re-issued the tender in November.

Map - Transit priorities

Officials initially pegged the cost at about $12.75 million before detailed design work was done.

“Now that all the property has been purchased and construction costs and schedules are confirmed, the total project cost has been adjusted to $14.2-million,” the Transportation Ministry said in a statement.

The province will cover $9.6 million of the final price tag, with the federal government kicking in $4.6 million.

“I think it’s great that they’re going ahead with it,” said Eric Doherty, a founding member of the Better Transit Alliance of Greater Victoria. “I think it’s really important that they’re not delaying once again, given that this has been delayed so many times since the Liberals promised to get it done ‘soon’ in 2008.”

Doherty said the lane will make a positive difference in travel times for commuters.

“I think it will also whet people’s appetite to see a complete route, because people on the bus will be making really rapid progress for part of the way and then, on bad days, they’re going to get stuck in the crawl again,” he said.

“So I think doing part of [the route] will increase the pressure to get it all done.”

Once complete, the lane will link with the City of Victoria’s completed bus and bike lane from Fisgard Street to Tolmie Avenue.

The next section, due for completion in 2019, will extend the route from Burnside Bridge past the McKenzie interchange.

The government has yet to set a timeline for finishing the lanes all the way to the Colwood turnoff at the Old Island Highway in View Royal.

But Saanich Coun. Susan Brice, who chairs the Victoria Regional Transit Commission, said she’s had a number of meetings with Trevena and is optimistic that the work will get done.

“I think that the ministry’s goals are the same as the transit commission’s,” she said.

“And I’m positive that our vision, which was to have bus priority lanes from downtown Victoria out to the West Shore, is going to become a reality.

“I’m sure for a lot of the public it has seemed to be going at a pace that they might have wondered, ‘When is this all going to come to fruition?’ But now, you can see it [happening.]”

View Royal Mayor David Screech said the changes can’t happen soon enough.

Unless people have a viable alternative, they’ll keep driving their cars and the Colwood Crawl traffic jam will only get worse, he said.

“We can see that it’s getting worse all the time,” he said.

“I think it’s crucial; we need to get people out of their cars and onto transit.”

The government released statistics Wednesday showing that the Douglas Street corridor supports up to 1,700 vehicles per hour during peak travel times. B.C. Transit buses move 40 per cent of the people taking the route at peak times, while accounting for only three per cent of the traffic.

The City of Victoria is at work on a southbound bus lane on Douglas from Tolmie to Hillside.

It’s slated for completion this year and will link with the existing lane from Hillside to Fisgard.

The southbound lane near the McKenzie interchange is to be finished in 2019 and the province says plans are in the works to extend the lane south from Burnside Bridge to Tolmie.

lkines@timescolonist.com

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