COLUMN: A little planning goes a long. long way

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but you gotta start planning sometime.

Let’s just get this out of the way: I’m from Toronto. Not born there, but lived there for a good part of my life.

Reason why I bring this up is because I’ve witnessed a city mismanage its infrastructure plans and grow exponentially well beyond its own limits; unfinished highways that end up in dead-ends, choking city traffic for miles, or boulevards meant to relieve traffic in the downtown core that somehow fell off the drawing board. With Toronto to soon surpass four million souls, that infrastructure is collapsing.

Think rush hour in Sooke is bad? Try six lanes, coming or going, all full, crawling at 10 km/h from 1 p.m. until past midnight. Every day. Yeah, not cool.

But what does this have to do with Sooke? It’s like comparing apples to kiwis. Well, that collapse can still happen here, even if it’s on a much smaller scale. If anything, Sooke’s options are even more limited; it’s not like we can tunnel our way through, or easily string a highway around a mountain. This isn’t Switzerland or Japan.

It’s Sooke. Council’s efforts with the roundabout should get a lot more credit than they do, because it does help the flow of traffic, regardless if some locals still can’t grasp how it works.

This was the first step, though.

The reality is, Sooke is in a race against time. It’s growing rapidly, while its arteries remain to the same spec as its pioneer days. And what happens when there’s more people? More residents, more services, more vehicles going in and out. Add that to the same road, and you’ve got a problem.

A few, actually. Drivers become more impatient and selfish about their space, whether it’s in front of them or behind them, tempers flare up like popcorn and road rage skyrockets. Diesel smoke fills your lungs as you wait in idle and not even your own tunes bring you calm anymore. Suddenly, you’re in a Mad Max sequel. Sounds dystopian, but it’s already happening.

Freeing up more arteries will help, but it’s not a long-term solution. Develop bus transit.  Connect, vital bike trails to leave people to bike to work instead of driving (one less car on the road will go a long way) or come up with a form of rapid transit that connects Sooke, Jordan River and Port Renfrew to Victoria without using Highway 14 at all.

This is more than just about infrastructure. It’s jobs. It’s people’s lives, their physical and mental health. It doesn’t do anyone any good to sit in traffic for hours and arrive at work or at home all drained and angry.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but you gotta start planning sometime. The more we do now to improve our infrastructure, the less the next generation will have to suffer.

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Octavian Lacatusu is a Sooke News Mirror reporter.