The recent house fire on Sooke Rd that resulted in a road closure of over 5 hours showed the vulnerability of our fragile Highway 14. The professional handling by our fire department showed that our trust in our volunteer heroes is well founded. As a North Sooke resident who lives nearby, watching our crews fight this incredibly intense house fire in the middle of a tinder dry forest cover, without the basic tool of a dependable water supply was a poignant reminder of the gratitude due and our need to support their efforts when possible. I am sure everyone’s prayers go out to the family and their devastating loss. Without this timely response this fire could have easily spread and closed the road for several days, not several hours.
Highway 14 has been a good companion to the residents of Sooke, bringing them their milk and cheese and carrying their products and themselves to the rest of Vancouver Island, but the old dear is getting beyond her ability to bear our loads. Population has grown quickly and the road is a constant stream of vehicles in commute hours and busy the rest of the day. Vehicles driving at 80 to 90 mph in the East Sookahalla are now typical, not infrequent. The length and condition of the commute creates the fear of being caught behind a driver at or below the posted limit and causes drivers who know better, to drive like they don’t. Thirty years ago emergency response vehicles going by was rare enough to stop us at our tasks; now it is a daily event; and after the first rain we know it will be a matter of minutes, not hours before we hear them. Although the Pat Bay and the Malahat have higher peak loads, the car count on Highway 14 equals their averages, on a roadway that does not match their quality.
The majority of Sooke residents are more recent community members and this majority grows daily as new families move to Sooke to enjoy the lifestyle possible here, but they, like the longer term residents need to continue to clarify what is important to maintain that quality.
Completing the West Sookahalla, that is completing a 4 lane section through North Sooke similar to the existing East Sookahalla completed 20 years ago, is a relatively simple solution that would alleviate much of the pressure on drivers, improve our identity as a community around a common harbour and provide a badly needed alternative access to our town. This road improvement could be completely inside our municipal boundary and an automated toll system would fairly allocate cost to users who benefit the most. It would also shorten the trip into Victoria by two kilometers.
This fall, it is time for the majority residents of Sooke to request leadership that calls for a forward vision, grounded in the qualities that make Sooke great. The West Sookahalla is their opportunity to continue building a better future for all of Sooke as many earlier residents did for them. Ask candidates where they stand on this issue and urge them to fund a feasibility study to determine the best way of accomplishing this project.
Chrys Téi Argast