Highway 14 to Port Renfrew to be added to safety study

A study looking into safety improvements for the winding highway between Langford and Sooke has been expanded to include the stretch to Port Renfrew.

The study by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure will look at long-term safety improvements along Highway 14. The study was to be completed in the spring, then by the fall. It is not known when the expanded study will be complete.

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Ministry staff are planning for consultation to take place in spring 2018.

Sooke Mayor Maja Tait said she is not disappointed the study has been delayed again.

“I can appreciate that the scope of the project was not put in place by the current government. And with Premier John Horgan being our MLA, I think the study will now capture more of what we’re looking for,” Tait said. “I’d rather have this thing done in a more [complete] manner than see it rushed through to the finish.”

The scope of the initial study did not cover anything within Sooke’s boundaries or westward to Port Renfrew, she said, noting that a new development with a gas station and a Tim Hortons restaurant in the Saseenos area will affect safety in that area.

“So now, at least, the study can properly cover safety improvements for that.”

The road to Port Renfrew is increasingly busy and Sooke is a hub for people travelling to the west coast of the island, Tait said.

“It makes sense that all the way to Port Renfrew is properly covered,” she said.

In Port Renfrew, the Pacheedaht First Nation has opened a gas station, built a small cedar mill and upgraded a campground. A new subdivision with lots for 20 single-family houses is being developed, and Mill Bay Marine Group has put in the new 60-slip Pacific Gateway Marina.

Between 2012 and 2016, the province invested $7.28 million to improve the highway. Interim safety upgrades — new lights, better signs and road markings — are underway at the intersections of Parkland, Gillespie and Connie roads along Highway 14.

The ministry has also applied higher-quality reflective glass bead to the paint lines to improve visibility at night.

Initially, the corridor study focused on safety upgrades because drivers wanted to see the highway closed less frequently, said a statement from the ministry. The study was also examining ways to promote greater transit use and encourage cycling.

The study’s initial findings identified several safety and transit improvements that could be implemented over the next year or two, the statement said.

“However, the review didn’t go far enough to improve mobility along this corridor and to meet the demands of the increasing population, as more and more people make their homes and establish their businesses in the Sooke area,” the statement said.

The ministry will look at ways to make travel along this route more reliable. It is also considering adding passing lanes and straightening out some of the curves to improve traffic flow.

Tait met with Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claire Trevena in the late fall and said Trevena “appreciates the challenges our residents and visitors face on the highway, as well as our growth expectations.”

About 14,000 vehicles use the 22-kilometre stretch of highway between Langford and Sooke every day.

In August, ICBC released statistics showing there were 1,275 crashes on Highway 14 between Veterans Memorial Parkway in Colwood and Sooke River Road in Sooke from 2006 to the end of 2015.

Of these, 575 resulted in injury or fatality. The section that runs through Sooke, from West Coast Road to the border with Metchosin, had 792 crashes in the same 10-year period, including 313 that resulted in injury or fatality.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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