British Columbia

B.C. government backs down on vow to find alternative detour for Malahat 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.

Province will instead focus on improving safety along the highway

Accidents and rock slides can often lead to lengthy closures along the Malahat. (@CeilidhMillar/Twitter)

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.

Traffic at a standstill at the Malahat summit on Highway 1 about four kilometres south of Bamberton on July 22, 2018. (Government of British Columbia)

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.

Despite calls for alternative routes, the province says it will instead focus on improving safety along the Malahat. (MainroadSouthIsland/Twitter)

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. 

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?

now