British Columbia

New barriers, extra lanes for deadly Malahat highway

A four-laned section and additional median barriers are coming to a busy stretch of the Trans-Canada highway between Victoria B.C. and the Cowichan Valley that is known for deadly collisions.

The province announced safety improvements to busy stretch of Trans-Canada highway known for deadly collisions

A 5-kilometre stretch of the Trans-Canada highway running through Malahat Villlage will be widened to four lanes, the B.C. government announced July 27. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

​A four-lane section and additional median barriers are coming to a busy stretch of the Trans-Canada highway between Victoria B.C. and Cowichan Valley that is known for deadly collisions.

The B.C. government announced July 27 that five kilometres of the highway running through Malahat Village will be expanded to four lanes, and median barriers will be installed on an additional three kilometres.

The B.C. government has been working to improve the safety of the notorious stretch of the highway — known as the Malahat — for more than a decade.

$34 million in improvements

"It's a work in progress," said B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone.

"We've seen the collision rate, the trend lines are pointing in the right direction. Overall collisions continue to go down, year over year."

Construction on the safety improvements will begin early 2017, the province said. (B.C. Government)

The federal and provincial governments have partnered to spend $34 million on the improvements, which, when complete, will mean that 65 per cent of the Malahat will be a divided highway.

Construction is set to start on the improvements in early 2017 and be completed in 2018.

History of fatal accidents

Calls for more barriers on the highway came as recently as November 2015, when a head-on collision killed one man.

Malahat Volunteer Fire Department Chief Rob Patterson, who attended the scene, told CBC News at the time that he believed no one would have died if there had been concrete barriers dividing the section of the highway where the accident occurred.

Stone said July 28 that it will be challenging to add median barriers to some trouble spots on the highway, such as in Goldstream Park.

"There would need to be some pretty significant disruption to the park in terms of blasting and tree removal and so forth in order to carve the space out in order  to put a median barrier down," he said.

Kerry Davis, director for the Cowichan Valley Regional District, said that the province needs to come up with a long-term plan to handle increasing traffic on the highway.

"As the Cowichan Valley has been growing, and housing is more expensive in Victoria, it's just exponential growth on Malahat commuting," said Davis, who added that he hopes the province will continue to look at an alternative highway for the south of Vancouver Island.

"It's not going to get any better anytime soon."

With files from Megan Thomas

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