Letters: Grant Road extension is a bad idea

Through road going past schools and family neighbourhoods is not wise

Re: Feb 20, 2013 letter from Tom Myrick supporting the 2014 Capital Plan.

After reading Mr. Myrick’s letter and the District of Sooke council minutes which show support for the continuation of the Grant Street extension proposal, I worry that Sooke residents may be left with the impression that this a really good idea whose time has come.  In my view, and every single Sooke resident I’ve talked to, the truth is the exact opposite.

I suspect that the main  reason for the apparent lack of opposition to this bad idea is that most people don’t realize what the plan is and its potential negative effects on Sooke. The plan, which council has committed to with a letter of understanding with the provincial highways department, is for there to be a continuous east-west road, running parallel to highway 14, from Phillips Road right through to Grant, where it meets West Coast Road. The ultimate purpose of this new road is to redirect a significant portion of the traffic from the highway onto this new “bypass” road, right through what are now quiet, single family neighbourhoods, and past two schools and a number of parks where there is probably the highest concentration of kids anywhere in Sooke at 3 p.m. on school days.  What’s particularly galling is the fact that this project is so hellishly expensive. This year alone, the small portion of new road from  Phillips to the east end of Throupe is projected to cost almost $2 million – this from a total capital budget in 2013 of $3.88 million. Then in following years there’s the cost of a new extension from Church to Grant, and sidewalks and curbs and traffic circles and all the other stuff that comes with a new through road – at least several million more. Just imagine all the sidewalks, boulevards, beautification, parks that could be provided with even a small portion of this money.

Before coming to Sooke six years ago, I lived and worked in Vancouver for 38 years. There is not a single neighbourhood in Vancouver that would have allowed such a major road to be imposed upon them.  And council, recognizing how nasty the opposition would be, doesn’t even consider such ideas. When I’ve asked long-term Sooke residents why there isn’t any opposition to this plan, they patiently explain that this was heavily debated about seven to eight years ago, and in the subsequent referendum, voters shot down the idea. Some even go on to to accuse me of getting worried about something that can’t possibly be going ahead, given the negative referendum vote.

Notwithstanding all the good work that this council has done in correcting the many mistakes and poor decisions of previous councils, for some reason they have bought into this hugely expensive road project, and have provided absolutely no opportunity for the public to be involved in advising council on capital project spending priorities.  Even if council doesn’t want to get into a public debate this late in the budgeting process, they should at least pay attention to the various surveys and polls that clearly show that our priority is not to spend a huge portion of our tax dollars making it easier and faster for cars to get through Sooke. As a minimum, council should put a hold on this expenditure until there has been a serious public discussion about capital spending priorities.

Rick Gates

Sooke