While many will be excitedly jumping in their cars to get away for the long weekend, Steve Drane and Ross Munro are quietly dreading it.
The pair live just off Finlayson Arm Road, a twisty, narrow, bumpy road that winds through Goldstream Provincial Park up to Millstream Road in the Highlands. For a long stretch near where Drane and Munro live, the road is barely one-lane wide.
“Basically, it’s a paved cow trail,” said Munro.
While usually quiet, this long weekend Munro is expecting thousands of cars to clog up the road. He’s spent the past three Fridays counting cars with a clicker, seeing more than 2,000 pass in five hours on July 28, and is expecting it to be even busier this weekend as drivers look to beat the Malahat traffic by using Finlayson Arm as a shortcut.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure issued a warning on Wednesday ahead of the long weekend, forecasting long delays for travellers looking to travel up Island. Construction along the Malahat near Goldstream Provincial Park has made the situation worse the past couple of years, according to Drane. That work, to repair damage done to the highway by the atmospheric river in November 2021, is set to be completed this fall, according to the transportation ministry’s website.
Munro says Google Maps will suggest the road as an alternate route when traffic is bad, meaning he’s seen all sorts of vehicles that are too big for the narrow road struggle to make it through. Drane helped one family turn their RV around when they couldn’t navigate the road. In other instances, Drane has been berated as he squeezed by the long snake of cars who refused to make room for him.
“We’re all talking about what if and what could, but we’ve seen it. We’ve seen it. Even when it’s not a busy day, people are in the ditch, motorcycles fall off the road, not familiar and go too fast. It’s bumpy. You have to drive this road with respect.”
Aside from the inconvenience to residents and unprepared drivers, Drane and Munro worry what will happen if someone needs an ambulance when the road is blocked.
“There’s a huge safety aspect to this totally out-of-control amount of cars,” added Drane.
In an email, District of Highlands Mayor Ken Williams said police are “actively monitoring the traffic situation on Finlayson Arm Road.”
“As you know, there is an increase in traffic volumes throughout the entire region. However, it should be noted that Finlayson Arm Road is not an ideal route due to its narrow and steep nature, particularly at the Langford end. Also, there are gaps in cell coverage,” Williams wrote. “While Google Maps allows for the removal of private roads, the situation is different for public roads as access may be critical in emergency situations.”
Williams said the district has not had recent discussions with the province about the issue.
“They are already well aware of the bottlenecks that occur in the area. The last significant study involved a proposed parallel route cutting through the watershed, which faced strong opposition and was not implemented.”