I was flabbergasted to see in this week’s Sooke News Mirror that there are people who think that the construction of the new connector road is a good idea. I understand (sorta) that council approved this $2-million road from nowhere to nowhere because of an entrenched notion that building a by-pass road is good for Sooke and is supported by Sooke residents. All of the long-time Sooke residents I’ve spoken to over the past few years have told me that the Throup/Grant Connector (which this new piece is just the middle portion of) is a really stupid idea that was rejected by residents in a referendum a number of years ago. Not once in recent public survey’s and community meetings has this project been identified as a community priority.
Despite the distinct lack of public support for this project, council has supported it – why? This council, and several before them, have been told so many times that this project is absolutely necessary for the proper functioning of traffic, and that, once completed, so many (undefined) benefits will miraculously spring forward from it that to question it would be foolish, if not irresponsible. In my years of working closely with Vancouver’s City Council, I did notice the odd time when they seemed to go into some kind of trance and support something that was just too expensive and complicated to warrant a serious second look. I can only assume that’s what happened here. Odd behaviour for a council that prides itself on keeping tax increases super low. Just imagine how different Sooke could be if the millions allocated for this project went to capital improvements that the public actually wanted and supported.
One thing council and staff are very clear about is that the new connector is just the first stage of a connector road that will join up with Grant Road at one end, and Throup all the way to Phillips at the other. The intention is to divert traffic away from Sooke Road and West Coast Road. Put another way, the idea is to move traffic away from a highway with commercial properties located along a good portion of it onto quiet residential streets. When asked the question at a public meeting, the engineer responsible for the design of the section of the connector being built right now was quite clear that this road was designed to handle large vehicles, including logging trucks.
So, while the residents further along West Coast Road are continuing to complain about the number of logging trucks and their hours of operation, the solution in Sooke is to move them away from the highway onto quiet neighbourhood streets. As one person commented, this connector will make it easier for Otter Point residents to get home. Now I’m generally a generous guy, but I really don’t appreciate several millions of our tax dollars going towards road improvements that will only benefit residents in neighbouring communities.
Not sure what to do about this mess. We could try to convince the new council to not complete the connections to Grant and Throup. That would leave us with this expensive piece of connector road in the middle that I’m sure will be appreciated only by residents on Townsend. Or we could simply advise the property owners along the connector route to sell now, before it becomes apparent to prospective buyers that they could be moving onto a relocated highway.