Detour planned for McKenzie interchange project

The next big change for traffic patterns through the McKenzie interchange project will come in November with the addition of a detour route for the southbound lanes, says Janelle Staite, deputy regional director for the Ministry of Transportation.

Staite was speaking during a Friday media tour of the construction.

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“We thought it was a great opportunity to just give the public an update on where we’re at with the project,” she said, adding that there have been “lots of questions, lots of interest.”

Construction of the $85-million project began in late 2016.

“We’re at about the 20-month mark, so really past that halfway mark in a project that’s going to be done at the end of 2019,” Staite said.

When work is complete, it is estimated that people heading either way during peak morning and afternoon traffic will save up to 20 minutes of travelling time.

Changes on the southbound lanes will allow work to proceed on the ultimate version of the highway, she said. “We’re in the process of building the detour ramps that will be actually used to get traffic off of Highway 1, over onto the detour.”

The highway bed will eventually be completely different. “We’re lowering the highway seven metres from where it is currently to be able to allow for the future construction of the interchange,” Staite said.

McKenzie Avenue and Admirals Road will stay at their current grades and be connected by a bridge.

The lowering process for the highway will bring increased blasting, Staite said.

She said residents will be kept informed and given plenty of advance notice of the blasting. Some people have complained about the impact of previous blasting near their homes.

“If there’s different alterations that we can do from a construction perspective, from a vehicle perspective or even just a routing perspective, we’ll certainly look at accommodating that working with the contractor,” Staite said.

Sound walls will be an important part of the final product, she said.

“We recognize that 85,000 cars a day generate quite a bit of noise coming through that,” Staite said. “We did a noise assessment as part of the project.”

The walls’ distinct green-and-silver panels are ready for installation, both on the highway and on McKenzie.

Staite said motorists should be aware that summer traffic flow will be different once school starts, since there are a number of schools in the area.

“When September starts up again we see summer traffic change,” she said. “We’re seeing that school traffic come back and so we’ll certainly see some adjustments there, and the ministry will keep a close eye to see if we need to do any changes to our traffic management on the corridor to keep the flow as smooth as we can.”

B.C. Transit will be accommodated with a dedicated northbound lane on the highway shoulder. “Transit carries roughly 40 per cent of users on the corridor. It only makes up three per cent of the actual vehicles on the corridor,” Staite said.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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