After four years of grafting and thousands of man hours of work, construction and landscaping crews are putting finishing touches on a major upgrade to one of the busiest intersections in the Capital Regional District on Vancouver Island.
The crossroads at McKenzie Avenue and Admirals Road in Saanich had been the number one traffic bottleneck in the province outside of the Lower Mainland and one of the most crash-prone intersections on the island. Today, now that construction work has been completed, traffic is flowing more smoothly and the intersection is much safer.
“The traffic congestion at this intersection had long been a source of frustration,” explains B.C. Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claire Trevena. “People are now saving time on their commutes, and transit users and those who cycle are also benefiting from improvements made.”
The $96-million project was initially announced in July of 2015 and work started in September 2016. The federal government contributed $32.6 million to the project and the province kicked in $63.3 million.
The project involved construction of a new partial cloverleaf-designed loop ramp and interchange at the intersection of Highway 1 and Admirals Road and McKenzie Avenue as well as intersection updates at McKenzie Avenue and Burnside Road.
Galloping Goose Trail was also realigned and widened with a new pedestrian and cyclist bridge over McKenzie Avenue. A new multi-use bridge over Highway 1 was also built to link to the upgraded trail. Transit facilities were upgraded with a dedicated bus on shoulder transit lanes.
A tricky part of the venture was keeping traffic flowing while doing construction. It took a lot of planning and foresight.
“One challenge we faced was managing and planning detours,” said a spokesperson for the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. “The ministry and its designers worked with the contractor to develop very detailed detour staging.
“The staging included building the future ramps first and then transitioning the traffic to the ramps with temporary signals. This then allowed the contractor to build the interchange in the middle of the highway.”
The first part of the project saw relocation of a major regional waterline and removal of rock. After that, construction began on the interchange.
Contractors were able to continue working in spite of COVID-19 and took precautions to protect workers in line with provincial policies such as maintaining physical distancing and other protocols.
The project was undertaken to make the intersection safer and reduce commute times for drivers travelling between Victoria and the growing communities in the West Shore and beyond.
“The Trans-Canada Highway is a vital route for both residents and tourists,” federal Infrastructure and Communities Minister Catherine McKenna said in a statement. “It connects people to school, work, as well as important attractions and services on Vancouver Island.”
The recent opening of central components of the project has also resulted in shorter commute times for those who live in Langford, Colwood and Sooke.
“We’re grateful for the continuous improvements the province is making in our transportation infrastructure between Colwood and other areas of our region,” said Colwood Mayor Rob Martin. “These improvements do more than move cars. They allow people to spend less time in traffic and more time with their families and enjoying other activities that promote well-being.”
Cyclists and pedestrians are also benefitting from the new Galloping Goose Trail Bridge that crosses McKenzie.
The project, meanwhile, has created a safer environment for students at nearby schools who no longer need to walk along the shoulder of the busy Trans-Canada Highway or cross the thoroughfare at a traffic signal to get to and from school.
“On behalf of Langford residents, we are excited to see the substantial completion of the McKenzie Interchange project,” said Langford Mayor Stewart Young. “This project will significantly decrease commute times.”
The project was a fit with the B.C. government’s Active Transportation Strategy called Move. Commute. Connect., which prioritized investments to improve active transportation. It also dovetails with CleanBC, an initiative aimed at transforming how people move around while encouraging more active transportation.
“Our top priority included improving on the existing transportation network so that the area is interconnected for all modes of travel — not just vehicles,” said the transportation and ministry spokesperson. “This included improving safety and reliability of the active transportation network and supporting and encouraging more biking, walking and other forms of active transportation.
“Improving the transit network was also a top priority. Priority bus lanes were installed to encourage more people to utilize sustainable travel choices.”
The project is now substantially complete. Presently, workers are doing some minor repairs, finishing a stormwater treatment pond and cleaning up the worksite.