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Sooke, school district meet to address traffic safety issues

Delays along Highway 14 have been a hot-button topic for a while in Sooke
Major road construction of Highway 14 in Sooke has caused long lineups. Sooke Mayor Maja Tait callled a recent traffic delay “horrible” for commuters. (File - Sooke News Mirror)

The District of Sooke has been consulting with the Sooke School District on ways to combat traffic on Highway 14 as delays increase.

Three schools sit along Highway 14, the sole connection between the rest of the West Shore and Sooke. Sooke Coun. Al Beddows said this creates bottlenecks, with people commuting from work getting caught up in it.

“Once it backs up, it backs up for hours. So by three o’clock, it goes into rush hour, and then it’s nuts for hours.”

Beddows said the district has met with school trustees on multiple occasions. The meetings involved looking into ways to address the congestion and improve safe walking routes, Kristen McGillivray, spokesperson for the Sooke School District, said.

“We do want to acknowledge the courtesy we have seen from drivers in the Sooke area who allow our buses into the flow of traffic and give us appropriate space when our stop signs are out to allow our students to get safely on and off our buses,” McGillivray said.

Ideally, the solution would be to get schools connected to other roads besides Highway 14, said Beddows.

“It’s a problem, but it’s not easily solved. It’s not solved in the short term. They only increase the road capacity when it becomes a crisis stage. Nobody does it in advance because they can’t get the dollars for it. To get grant money, you have to show the need.”

Infrastructure hasn’t kept up with growth in the community, which means the district is facing extensive costs to catch up, Beddows added.

In a release addressing the traffic issue, Mayor Maja Tait said the district “received nearly $10 million in grants last year alone, more than the amount collected through residential property taxes.”

The district has several road improvement projects to divert traffic from Highway 14. Beddows said the Throup Road connector that will connect Phillips Road to Charters Road would be a big help, but that is only at the design phase – which the district said should be 75 to 90 per cent complete by the end of 2022, according to its transportation master plan.

“It takes time and money. We know what the problem is. We have some solutions. But unless we get grant money, it’s millions and millions of dollars to fix it,” Beddows said.

Tait also previously pointed to staffing difficulties the school district faces with bus drivers adding to traffic on the roads.

“Now more folks are driving their kids to school than ever before,” she said.

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