An Announcement On An Emergency Malahat Route Is Expected Next Week


An alternative to the Malahat is expected to be announced next week.

The Ministry of Transportation is expected to announce a new emergency route, to be used in the event of a significant incident that stops traffic.

Sonia Fursteneau, Green MLA for Cowichan Valley, says this last summer really demonstrated the need of an emergency route.

"We had several closures of the Malahat, one of them lasted the better part of a day.  It really impacted Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, Southern Vancouver Island/Victoria people.  And it really hit home that that artery, the Malahat, when it's shut down, it literally paralyses Southern Vancouver Island."

She adds that many people travel down the highway for other reasons, such as for medical treatment.  Fursteneau says people come to Victoria to see specialists who may not be able to move an appointment until much later in the year.  She says critical emergency services are also essential, as she witnessed during one of the closures last summer.  

"One of the most distressing things that happened, was that in the ferry lineup, was a child who had trouble breathing, and the parents were trying to get down to the hospital.  So when you look at those kinds of situations, it really reinforces the need for an emergency alternative route."

She says the challenge of finding an alternate route is not disturbing the environment, particularly the Sooke Watershed, which provides water to the CRD.

But Chris Foord,  Vice Chair of the CRD Traffic Safety Commission, says the CRD bought a large portion of land in the 90's that could easily be turned into an alternative route, and adds that there is little risk to the environment.

"On maps we know that are as the Watershed Reserve Lands, and I think a lot of people when they see that they think 'Oh, Sooke Lake Watershed', well it's not the Sooke Lake Watershed.  It's the watersheds of the three lakes that feed Goldstream River, but it's not the Sooke Watershed."

He adds the land was intended for recreational purposes, but hasn't been developed and there are logging roads that could be turned into a new passage to Shawnigan Lake.

Foord also commends the current government for working on the Malahat and maintaining safety measures, but believes a new, faster highway should be built that connects Greater Victoria to the Nanaimo Parkway.

The emergency route wouldn't be available all the time, only in the case of emergencies and closures.  And Fursteneau says the possibility of having additional ferry services is also being floated.

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