It might be Vancouver Island’s least-loved stretch of highway, but commuters shouldn’t expect to be leaving it in their rear-view mirrors any time soon.
It least not if Duncan-area politicians have any say in the matter.
It appears there could be significant opposition if any plans to construct a highway bypass around Duncan to ease the traffic congestion on the Trans Canada Highway corridor through the city are ever considered.
At a recent joint meeting of North Cowichan and Duncan councils to discuss future transportation plans for the region, North Cowichan’s director of engineering David Conway asked councillors if they felt it was time to revisit the idea of building a bypass to deal with the traffic bottlenecks that often occur on the TCH as vehicles transit through the community.
Conway said with the new Cowichan District Hospital soon to be constructed near the highway in mostly rural area north of the city, and the overall and continuing growth on southern Vancouver Island, the issue has arisen a number of times in the planning community.
“This is a long-term planning issue, but planning would need to begin now [if a decision was made to move the project forward],” he said.
But North Cowichan Coun. Rob Douglas said he has concerns with building a highway bypass.
“The current highway corridor was built in 1958 as a bypass, and previous decision makers decided to develop along that corridor and that got us in this kind of situation,” he said.
“In this day and age, we’re trying to adapt to the effects of climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I would hate to see us invest so many resources into infrastructure that is so vehicle-centric.”
Duncan Coun. Bob Brooke asked Conway if there were ever any preliminary plans made for a possible route for a highway bypass.
Conway said there were some drawings completed in 2014 of routes that could be considered.
He said two routes, one short and one long, are located on the east side of the city in the drawing, and another two, also one short and one long, are located on the west side.
“At least we have some fat lines on a drawing that suggests where it could go,” Conway said.
Duncan Coun. Tom Duncan said he echoes Douglas’s views on constructing a new bypass.
“I’d rather spend more money on housing than encourage more vehicle traffic here,” he said.
“After all, we only have five or six traffic lights [on the current corridor].”
A report commissioned in 2005 by the City of Duncan, along with the Cowichan Valley Regional District and other local authorities, discussed four possible routes for a bypass, but it was determined at the time that the high costs and impact to businesses and private-property owners of such a project would outweigh the benefits.