Editorial: Hope for the Malahat?

Like die-hard sports fans at the start of a season, Malahat drivers look at each government promise with a mixture of cock-eyed optimism and world-weary cynicism.

On Wednesday, the province announced it would hire a consulting firm to come up with a plan to improve traffic flow on southern Vancouver Island, a large part of which is figuring out what to do about the Malahat.

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When a crash happens on the highway, traffic can be blocked for four or more hours while police investigate and clean up the scene. Depending on where it happens, drivers can be stranded with no alternative routes.

The Ministry of Transportation says a study of a temporary bypass route should be ready by spring, with work beginning in the summer.

Mitzi Dean, MLA for Esquimalt-Metchosin, said nothing is off the table, so a transportation plan could include bridges, ferries, rail, cars, transit, walking and cycling.

A comprehensive plan for transportation is long overdue, but for fuming drivers, a bypass for the Malahat is the top priority.

The E&N rail line is one possibility, either by an efficient rail service that would take lots of drivers off the road or by turning the right-of-way into a road.

The Pacific Marine Circle Route could be improved with wider bridges.

Most suggestions to punch a road through the back country mean going through the region’s watershed, which Capital Regional District director Mike Hicks says must never happen.

There is no way the government will shell out the money to bore a tunnel under the mountain, so the long-suffering commuters need a realistic solution.

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