British Columbia

Vancouver Island MLA wants fixes to Malahat Highway after a summer of road closures

Green MLA Sonia Furstenau, whose Cowichan Valley riding lies in the middle of the Malahat Highway, says the government needs to find solutions for the frequent road closures on the notorious highway.

Sonia Furstenau plans to speak this week with B.C.'s transportation minister about the notorious highway

The Malahat Highway is often the site of traffic congestion and road closures. (@AprilCHEK/Twitter)

Green MLA Sonia Furstenau is renewing her call the province find a solution to frequent road closures on the Malahat Highway. 

The main highway connecting Victoria with the rest of Vancouver Island has experienced a string of closures over the summer, including a rock slide that shut down both lanes for several hours Monday morning.

In late August, a fatal crash caused the highway to close for eight hours. In such instances, the only alternatives for drivers is to travel by water or take a multi-hour detour.

"What we have to consider here are the ongoing impacts and the cumulative impacts," Furstenau told CBC's All Points West.

"On the day these closures happen, people are missing flights, they're missing meetings, they're missing medical appointments and they're not getting to work." 

Furstenau, whose Cowichan Valley riding lies in the middle of the line, said that she travels to Victoria on Sundays before the legislature sits on Mondays because the highway is so unreliable. 

"I don't want to find myself trapped on the north side of the Malahat, and there's a vote in the house." 

Listen to the full interview:

Boulder hit car

The latest closure stemmed from a boulder — more than a half-metre wide — tumbling down a hill Monday morning. 

The rock travelled across both lanes and hit a vehicle travelling northbound, said Chris Cowley, operations manager for Mainroad South Island Contracting, which maintains the highway.

"From where [crews] could see, just the heavy rainfall seems like the main culprit."

Crews had to shut down both lanes to assess where the boulder came from and make sure there were no other loose rocks before reopening the highway, Cowley said. 

A falling rock closed the Malahat Highway Monday morning. (B.C. Ministry of Transportation)

Finding solutions

There is some relief in store, as a five-kilometre stretch of the highway will be expanded to four lanes. Median barriers will be set up on an additional three kilometres. 

Furstenau said she plans to speak about the highway this week with B.C. Transportation Minister Clare Trevena at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Whistler.

"I would hope and I expect, particularly after this summer, it has moved up the priority list," she said.

Furstenau says she has to travel to Victoria on Sundays before the B.C. Legislature sits on Monday because the highway is too unreliable. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

Small solutions would include adding more ferries between the Mill Bay-Brentwood Bay route when the highway shuts down, she said.

She said there's also been talk from private investors of adding passenger ferries between Mill Bay and Pat Bay and between Pat Bay and Cowichan Bay.

Furstenau also wants to see long-term solutions, such as reviving the 234-kilometre E&N Rail Line, which stretches from Victoria to Courtenay and has gone unused since 2011.

With files from CBC's All Points West

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