Heavy Traffic at McTavish Road Interchange Open House

It was standing room only last week when I dropped down to the McTavish Road Interchange Open House, hosted for local residents by the Provincial government, as part of its public consultation process. Local residents, North Saanich, Sidney and Central Saanich Council members, Victoria Airport Authority staff, project staff from the Province and other transportation staff mingled and chatted with the public as people poured into the Presbyterian Church at East Saanich Road and circulated around the room, browsing the various design displays. Of particular interest was an animated demonstration showing how the traffic will move through the new interchange and its three roundabouts.

Comments on the project that I heard ranged from "too big and too complex for this area" to "too expensive when we are cutting everything else in this Province" to "we need the improvements for safety's sake" and "it's about time we did something at this intersection." I also heard some anxiety about drivers having to negotiate the roundabouts, which I agree can be daunting.

I remember well my first driving experience in Britain. I rented a Mini and drove 2,700 miles through England and Scotland but not before having to learn in the first 5 minutes, how to drive on the opposite side of the road, shift the manual transmission in the opposite direction with my left hand (I'm right-handed) and read a map. Things were going pretty well by the time I was 20 miles out until... I encountered my first roundabout!! You could hear my screams all the way around it while I was desperately trying to find my way out. But by the end of the trip, roundabouts and I had become friends and I have to admit, they are extremely efficient at keeping traffic moving; I am now a roundabout fan.

In general, my impression of public reaction during my visit to the Open House was that most people, while not wildly enthusiastic, were more accepting of recent modifications made to the design. Despite public concerns about cost and scope (which I appreciate), residents I talked to that day seemed to recognize that efforts had been made by provincial transportation planners to incorporate some of the public's feedback on design and to make subsequent changes.

Beyond original concerns about the finished product and its suitability to this area, people I spoke to have concerns about impacts during the construction phase, including road closures, re-routed traffic along East Saanich Road, emergency vehicle access to Lochside Drive and noise. I share these concerns as does the Mayor of North Saanich and other Council members. I observed that Heather Gartshore, North Saanich resident and one of our two community appointments to the McTavish Road Interchange Task Force (the other is Bob Williamson, Dean Park Resident and former North Saanich Councillor) was keeping close tabs on public input at the Open House. I know that Heather and Bob will follow up these concerns with the District as part of the Task Force process (established by Mayor and Council to give the community a voice in the project).

I want to stress, once again, that the District of North Saanich is not a contributing partner to this Interchange. YES, we supported in principle last year the Victoria Airport Authority's original request to make safety and access improvements at McTavish and the Pat Bay Highway but NO, we have no authority or responsibility for the project and no money invested.

Having said that, I can assure you that the District of North Saanich is concerned about how construction impacts will be managed until the project is completed. I understand that Mayor and Council will remain involved on your behalf through our McTavish Interchange Task Force. For questions, comments or more information, please contact your Interchange Task Force community representatives, Heather Gartshore at 250-656-0974 or Bob Williamson at 250-655-1270. And at anytime, please feel free to contact me directly (as well as other Council members) with your concerns. Thank you!