COLUMN: Interchanges needed all along the Island highway

COLUMN: Interchanges needed all along the Island highway

Infrastructure leaves a lot to be desired

(I actually wrote this column before the Humboldt bus crash and before the sentencing in the death of Chemainus girl Paige Whitelaw and her friend Carlee DeBoer. Since both incidents pertained to speed, I felt it was important to once again highlight some of these other speed-related issues).

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about how excessive speed seems to be contributing in a big way toward an alarming increase in the number of serious crashes on B.C. highways.

I focused strictly on the impact of speed, but there are obviously many other factors at work. However, most of the time reducing speed would go a long way toward lowering the accident rate.

Those who refuse to believe speed makes such a difference are only kidding themselves.

Along with that, though, the incidents of distracted driving that are sometimes connected to speed or just plain driver error continue to rise sharply.

You constantly see drivers not just playing with their cell phones or sending text messages, but applying makeup, eating, drinking, shuffling around items in the seat next to them or behind them, attending to babies – you name it. It’s all deflecting their attention away from the roadways to prevent collisions from occurring.

As has been pointed out before by myself and previous letter writer Leslie Robinson, posted signs are for maximum speeds. That doesn’t mean you automatically go 10-15 kilometres per hour over that number, but that’s what probably 90 per cent of drivers actually end up doing.

The fact it’s not enforced and drivers are given that leeway as an upper range past the maximum speed before it’s considered an offense doesn’t help.

One of the biggest reasons why speeds need to be reduced – and also something I pointed out last time – is the sheer volume of traffic these days. The congestion is horrible on the Island – between Nanaimo and Victoria, particularly.

And something local weather observer Chris Carss and I have been pointing out for years is our infrastructure on the Island Highway is horrendous. Carss has previously noted it’s the worst section of so-called highway anywhere in Canada because there are countless stop lights to disrupt the normal traffic flow.

In the bad old days of the last 20 years, instead of having any foresight to anticipate population growth and the explosion of vehicles on the Island highway, the provincial highways ministry simply went ahead and installed traffic light after traffic light. That’ll solve the problem. Wrong.

We are now paying enormously for that massive explosion of light installations and we’re going to pay more in the years ahead to have them removed in favour of proper interchanges, something that should have been done long ago.

Drivers get frustrated with the constant stops and starts and that leads to more speeding in order to beat the next light just ahead.

The McKenzie Interchange in Victoria is long overdue, but now the Tillicum intersection just beyond it will have to undergo a similar transformation because that’s where cars are going to get backed up.

The story is the same throughout all the traffic lights on the highway. Interchanges could have been done many years ago to keep traffic moving, but the geniuses of the time decided it was too expensive.

Well, guess what, it’s way, way more expensive to install them now, but many throughout the region will have to be done at some point to ease the backlogs.

The Nanaimo Parkway should have been built without traffic lights. Eventually, they’re coming out at a huge expense.

It’s amazing how no one had the foresight to build the logical transportation infrastructures before we got to this crisis point.

There is still no plan for a Duncan bypass and something will have to be done sometime. This influx in population isn’t going to suddenly diminish.

The Duncan strip is a huge problem because you can’t remove traffic lights and simply build an interchange. A tunnel would be the only answer and that’s unlikely to be done for so many reasons.

There are so many problems with our highway system on the Island that I haven’t even touched on, including having so many merge lanes where drivers try to get ahead by racing each other that just creates more accidents waiting to happen.

Let’s all just be careful out there and not make an already bad mess any worse with erratic driving.

(Don Bodger is the editor of the Chemainus Valley Courier).