B.C. government backs down on vow to find alternative detour for Malahat highway
Province will instead focus on improving safety along the highway
Despite pledging to give Vancouver Island "the investment it needs," the Ministry of Transportation announced Monday in a statement it no longer intends to find an alternative emergency detour route for long-term closures on the Malahat highway north of Greater Victoria.
Instead, the province says it will focus on improving safety on the existing route, so when an accident does occur, its impact is limited.
The Malahat — a section of Highway 1 — is the main arterial connecting Victoria with the rest of Vancouver Island to the north.
The corridor can often see closures from accidents or rock slides that last for hours, leaving commuters stranded unless they take a ferry or a lengthy detour.
'Detour routes exist'
A report to identify potential alternative routes was created for the Ministry of Transportation and presented to it in November.
And while the ministry said "feasible detour routes exist," the report also identified potential environmental, community and property impacts.
The study focused on seven possible detours that would implement existing forestry roads, trails and maintenance roads.
Out of seven possible routes, two were chosen to determine cost estimates, which ranged from $30 million to $180 million.
Pacific Marine Circle: best option, says province
"Closures of the Malahat long enough to trigger a detour occur relatively infrequently," said the ministry statement, adding it amounts to an average of 1.1 incidents per year.
Although it's unclear what constitutes "long enough."
When a fatal accident closed the highway for eight hours in August, commuters demanded action. One man from the Cowichan Valley went so far as to create a petition calling for an alternative.
If the highway is closed for a long stretch, the ministry reaffirmed that the best option remains the Pacific Marine Circle Route.
Even though an alternative route is off the table, the government said it is still committed to improving the Malahat.
It said it's working on projects like widening one section between Leigh Road and the West Shore Parkway, as well as adding a centre median barrier along certain stretches.