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GRIDLOCK: Sooke’s traffic problems ‘far beyond what anyone could have anticipated’

District says it is working with the province on solutions
The District of Sooke said it’s working to understand the causes behind a recent increase in traffic delays along Highway 14 for commuters. (File - Sooke News Mirror)

People commuting from and to Sooke are experiencing delays “far beyond what anyone could have anticipated,” according to the district.

Residents’ frustrations have been mounting as the long line of cars snaking along Sooke Road during peak commuting hours seemingly grows longer by the day. Road closures at Charters Road were expected to increase traffic slightly – 17 of every 100 cars turn off Highway 14 to Charters Road, according to the district – but the increase in traffic is unlikely to have been solely caused by those closures, it states.

“We’re in the traffic, too. It’s frustrating and impacting the quality of life for our residents. We are not complacent on this as a new reality and are working with various stakeholders to see what can be done to provide any form of immediate reprieve, while we also work toward long-term solutions,” Mayor Maja Tait said in a release addressing the issue.

Some of those solutions include discussing the timing of traffic lights along Highway 14 with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, meeting with the Sooke School District and working with BC Transit to expand transit services.

Sooke resident Sara Heck has worked from home the past two years. She will return to the road in April when she resumes working in her downtown Victoria office – and is dreading it. Her husband commutes to Langford and she said it takes him more than an hour to get home most days. She said busing isn’t an option for her, as her two children go to different schools in Colwood, so she needs a car to be able to pick them up.

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The district acknowledged that residents returning to their offices after two years of remote work may be contributing in part to the traffic woes. Part of the district’s transportation plan for this year is to complete a master traffic impact analysis study.

A number of construction projects are on the go, with others nearing completion of the design phase.

Construction on Church Road and the Otter Point Road corridor are scheduled to be completed this year. Design work for the Charters Road and Phillips Road corridors – Highway 14 to north of SEAPARC, and the Throup Road Connector between Phillips and Charters roads – are projected to be 75 to 90 per cent completed by the end of 2022. Work on the conceptual plans for the Otter Point at Wadams Way roundabout and the Grant Road West realignment also on the books.

But the work takes funding, which can be hard to secure.

“I think we sometimes forget that Sooke is just 22 years young (since incorporation). There are complexities in establishing funding sources during a municipality’s relative early years when residential property taxes are a significant source of funding,” Tait said.

Last year, the district pulled in more than $10 million in grant money, more than it received in property taxes. Sooke aims to upgrade its infrastructure from rural to urban standards, but said that also will take new funding.

A change to the development cost charge bylaw, which council is set to review later this year, could provide more funding for transportation projects. The district is also working on an employment lands strategy to work on increasing commercial real estate options for businesses in Sooke, in order to keep people working in Sooke and cut down on the number of commuters.

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