When news of a roundabout in the heart of Sooke first reached public ears, there was some concern; logging trucks in tight bends, pedestrian crossways, accessibility to and from neighbouring businesses and so on — but unlike a second Sooke River Bridge, which remains a phantom in a pile of engineering schematics, the roundabout is happening — and it is safer than you’d think.
But don’t take our word for it; the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) – who is managing the project – says the roundabout will curb the risk of accidents and is the most cost-efficient solution to date in terms of slowing down the speed of vehicles passing through town as well as increasing the flow of traffic.
The roundabout will be between Sooke Road (Highway 14), Brownsey Boulevard and the main entrance to the Evergreen Shopping Centre.
So where are they at right now in that process? Well, the tender document has been issued in concurrence with the District of Sooke, and it is estimated at this point that work will begin in July 2015, albeit once a contractor has been selected for the job. Completion time is projected around September/early-October 2015, though at this point the District will not know the full schedule until the tender documents are received and MOTI gives it the green light.
Although the District has budgeted $1,000,000 for the roundabout, Mayor Maja Tait said the district will have a better idea of the roundabout costs once the tender closes in early May 2015 and the bids are reviewed.
The central roundabout is, however, still happening one way or another this summer – an achievement which brings a sense of relief for Tait, who said she’s both excited and anxious about the project finally coming to fruition.
“Council has been working on the creation of a vibrant town centre for many years now, so it’s exciting to finally see the plans turn into reality,” she said. “I realize that construction has its impact on businesses, residents and visitors, but we have an excellent project management team in place so I’m optimistic about the outcome.”
In terms of the district preparing residents for construction of the roundabout in the centre of town, Tait said the district will collaborate with MOTI’s experience with construction and traffic management in urban areas to ensure the public is kept in the loop — pun intended.
“MOTI will be working with us to ensure the appropriate messaging is issued at the appropriate times to keep the residents abreast of any changes,” she said. “The recently constructed Wadams Way will provide an alternate route during construction from Church Road to Otter Point Road.”
Tait added that project signs will be placed at both ends of the roundabout site that will show the contractor and the construction period as well as provide the project contact information.
“The contractor will provide a Traffic Management Plan that will be approved by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and the District of Sooke which will address potential lane closures and alternate routes,” she said.
Since the roundabout will encompass several entrances/exits of surrounding businesses, some residents are concerned they may be cut off in order to accommodate it – but as Tait points out, that simply is not the case.
“It is a requirement in the tender that the accesses to the business need to be maintained during construction,” she said. “This is typical for road projects.”
As such, construction of the roundabout will include access points to 6660 Sooke Road (Evergreen) and 6649 Brownsey Blvd – complete with pedestrian sidewalks around the rim of the circle, not in it, as often misconceived.
In terms of design, this is no Arc de Triomphe; and while the roundabout will have a small decorative “island” of sorts in its middle section, the circle around it will be a slightly-elevated curb, allowing logging trucks, as well as other lengthy vehicles to drive through without risk to themselves or other motorists — in addition, this will act as a built-in speed bump for such vehicles.
An improved eastbound BC Transit bus pullout, west of the roundabout, will also be included, as well as resurfacing Highway 14 between Otter Point and Church Roads, and asphalt widening up to a new curb and gutter.
Following her visit to Lake Cowichan to meet with local Mayor Ross Forrest and Councillor Bob Day back in January, Councillor Brenda Parkinson says the roundabout design (which is essentially identical to the one Sooke will have installed) works – and works well.
“They have 200 logging trucks going through their town daily and there is not a problem with the trucks flowing with the traffic around the roundabout,” Parkinson said. “Everyone uses it correctly and they say it is the best thing that has happened. Everyone appears to be pleased with it.”
Interestingly, a Lake Cowichan resident took some aerial footage of the roundabout (fast-forward to 1:14 minutes in the video) – go to this link to get an idea of what the one in Sooke may look like.
The District’s website (Ongoing Projects – Highway 14 Improvements) provides updates on this project as well as answers to frequently asked questions. As well, you can visit the District of Sooke website to some additional information regarding how roundabouts work, as provided by ICBC.
The District will update the website once the tenders close and the contract is awarded.