Pedestrian safety is a big problem for those who walk along West Coast Road from Otter Point to Whiffin Spit roads in Sooke, but the municipality is reluctant to move forward on improvements to the area unless the B.C. Transportation Ministry is willing to help out.
Sooke council rejected a staff recommendation to obtain a engineer design and budget estimate for a pedestrian walkway along the north side of West Coast Road from Maple Avenue South to Nordin Road. Early estimates tagged the project at $100,000.
“The north side is the wrong side,” said Coun. Kevin Pearson, who lives in the area. “The south side is the right place to do it.
“We have to go back to the Ministry of Highways and encourage them to participate. The cost alone on the north side would be quadruple because the road is right up against the ditch.”
Municipal staff assessed building a pedestrian pathway on the south side of West Coast Road as the most cost-effective, and also investigated the option of defining a pathway to the existing trail connecting the boat launch parking at 1824 Maple Ave. South to the Prestige Hotel, but the land is only under a two-year lease, making it a poor choice for a major infrastructure investment.
“The best remaining option is to use the north side of the road utilizing a safe crossing point, which will likely be west of the Prestige hotel,” staff wrote in a report to council.
Several councillors suggested that there were more important road projects the district should spend its money on, rather than going alone on the West Coast Road plan.
Coun. Bev Berger said she didn’t want to see municipal money going to a project the Ministry of Transportation should be doing.
“I’d much rather see us improve pedestrian connectivity around our schools. There are so many more roads where our kids are walking to and from school every single day that could be improved,” she said.
Coun. Rick Kasper said he would support a cost-sharing agreement, but couldn’t vote for anything that would see no contribution from the ministry.
“I think we need to put things in perspective,” Kasper said. “We need to look after the Sooke people first: Sooke roads, Sooke sidewalks, and not the Ministry of Transportation.”
Mayor Maja Tait said West Coast Road from Otter Point Road west is dangerous, but the challenge is that it’s up to the ministry to manage the road and the parking.
Municipal staff was instructed by council to open talks with the ministry and explore the possibility of a cost-sharing agreement to address the north and south sides sections of the road and sidewalk on West Coast Road from Otter Point to Whiffin Spit roads.
“We have to look at this area, but we have to have the ministry participating,” Tait said.