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Risky Malahat gets another $15 million in medians, other safety upgrades
Malahat’s fire chief was delightfully surprised by Wednesday’s news Victoria is funding another 2.3 kilometres of the concrete medians on dangerous Malahat Drive — including along the deadly ‘NASCAR Corner.’
But Rob Patterson doubted Premier Christy Clark’s new $15-million fix — starting next year to barrier about half the Malahat — will stop all carnage.
“Speed’s not the problem — the problem is the drivers, whether it’s a mechanical failure, driving distracted, or tailing too close,” he said, lamenting ugly chain-reaction crashes.
Patterson applauded more barriers to curb cross-over crashes, but hoped he can pinpoint, for highways’ engineers, other places needing urgent safety upgrades.
“There’s also the corner at the Malahat (Petrocan) gas station; that’s a horrendous corner and we’ve been there time and time again.”
This week’s $15 million will help save taxpayers’ lives for several years, but Patterson touted fully dividing and twinning the Malahat.
He reckoned that fix would cost the public upward of $400 million.
“There would be an impact on the environment, no doubt about that.”
But given steadily climbing ‘Hat traffic, Patterson visualized an inland highway linking with the Nanaimo’s bypass, to handle truck and business traffic.
The current turnpike would become a scenic route.
Meanwhile, Patterson will take all measures necessary to save lives and prevent more wrecks.
“If we have an event here, I’m still going to shut the highway down.”
The best solution, he suggested, is getting vehicles off the Malahat by creating more commuting and traveller transportation options.
“I think the train has gone the way of the dodo bird, but it’s definitely a viable option I could use.
The fire chief also cited more ride-share programs, perhaps through provincial incentives to employers with lots of employees.
Clark explained the turnpike purse includes 2.3 km of the cross-over stopping slabs on the stretch north of Shawnigan Lake Road.
“This section of highway has seen too many accidents and we’ve heard from first responders and residents about the need for continued improvements, and that’s what we’re doing,” Clark’s release says.
Needed improvements were cited in the 2012 Malahat Corridor study — and were called a priority by the Malahat Advisory Group.
It includes everyday Cowichanians, plus local first responders such as Patterson.
Howling for more Malahat safety was heard by Clark.
“We’re going to do more work to ensure the Island’s highways meet the needs of a growing population and a growing economy,” she says.
That 2.3 kilometres of medians will split the highway from south Shawnigan Lake Road up to the Malahat Summit weather station.
The pending work should snuff safety worries in the speed-prone area locals call NASCAR Corner, Clark noted.
Work will also cover a one-kilometre, southbound passing lane extension, plus improvements to the Whittaker Road and Holker Place intersections.
“As the main route north from Victoria, the Malahat will be an important part of our upcoming Vancouver Island Transportation Strategy,” noted transportation minister Todd Stone.
The new upgrades build on $18 million in Malahat safety improvements since 2001, Victoria’s statement says.