Residents living near the new McKenzie interchange are concerned about safety at the intersection of Admirals Road and Esson Road. Due to the construction of the new interchange, the main entrance to the community, Portage Road, has been permanently closed. A group of residents from the Portage Inlet Sanctuary Colquitz Estuary Society (PISCES) explain that locals are now forced to use Esson Road. They say the intersection is unsafe and only going to get worse once the interchange is open.
“The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has worked closely with [PISCES] since day one of the project,” said a spokesperson with the ministry.
The ministry contracted SNC Lavalin to conduct a safety report to address the concerns of the residents. The study was completed in 2019, said the spokesperson, and PISCES was consulted through the entire process. The final report was also shared with PISCES.
“The report identified potential upgrades to the Admirals/Esson intersection that could be undertaken in the future by the ministry or the District of Saanich,” the MoTI spokesperson explained.
“Based on the safety review presented in Section 6 [of the SNC-Lavalin report] and the recommendations presented in Section 7, conceptual designs were drafted to illustrate the geometric layout of potential safety improvement measures,” said Vicki Blogg, local resident and secretary and treasurer of PISCES.
The report recommended two options to improve the safety of the intersection. Option 1 included geometric safety improvements with a center median, an urban gateway, and intersection angle normalization. This option would also include a bike lane with buffer which could act as a partial right turn lane, Blogg explained. Option 2 was a modified version of Option 1 with a potential westbound right-turn lane.
Upon assessment of the safety of a right-turn lane, the report stated that Option 1 was the safer option.
The SNC-Lavalin report also indicated that the McKenzie interchange construction had directly affected certain aspects of the safety on Admirals Road.
“Upon reviewing historical Google Streetview images, a 50 km/h speed limit sign existed before the McKenzie Interchange construction. This sign was no longer present,” stated the report.
SNC-Lavalin found that there was potential for operating speeds on Admirals Road to increase following the completion of the McKenzie interchange due to there being less interruption for drivers crossing the highway and coming off the highway. Furthermore, without signage indicating the upcoming intersection, westbound drivers may be caught off guard by those turning right.
The MoTI spokesperson said they expect that the changes that will already be completed along with the interchange will improve the safety for all who use Admirals Road.
“These include significant multi-modal improvements for transit users, pedestrians and cyclists including: a new express transit stop adjacent to Portage Road and a new pedestrian and cycling overpass over the Trans Canada Highway, connecting the Portage Road area to the enhanced Galloping Goose Trail,” the spokesperson explained.
They went on to say that following the engagement of PISCES and the other residents, the ministry is upgrading Admirals Road with many changes to the east side of the road. For the west side, a concrete sidewalk will be added to Admirals Road from the eastbound offramp to Esson Road and repaving Admirals Road “within the project limits.”
Blogg said she’s been informed that the sidewalk will be put in by the CRD, not by MoTI. However, MoTI has clarified that the sidewalk and bike lane work on Admirals Road will be completed by MoTI as part of the project.
The MoTI spokesperson also explained that prior to the McKenzie interchange project, there was no bike lane on Admirals Road.
For the foreseeable future, the MoTI spokesperson said that right-turn movement at the Admirals Road and Esson Road intersection will stay as is. Once the project is complete, the ministry will monitor the entire McKenzie project — including Admirals Road — to assess any issues.
“As Admirals Road is under the jurisdiction of the District of Saanich, the ministry will continue to work with the municipality on any additional changes to Admirals Road,” said the spokesperson.