Author: R. Atwell, Citizen Journalist
These risky intersections have daunted motorists for the last twenty years, while the aging road infrastructure strains to accommodate an increasing population. One intersection that receives more than its share of emergency calls is (Patricia Bay) Hwy 17 and Sayward Rd. at the North end of Elk Lake.
Over 55,000 vehicles travel along the Hwy 17 corridor every day, which has led to 60 accidents per year and 169 rear-end collisions at Sayward Rd. from 2006 to 2010. This data, which was collected by RCMP and analyzed by ICBC, revealed that driver inattentiveness and following too closely were major contributing factors.
In 2010, Saanich South MLA Lana Popham, in cooperation with the Cordova Bay Association for Community Affairs (CBASN) assembled a working group of agency stakeholders to tackle this problem on behalf of constituents.
Members of this group include the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOT) responsible for the provincial highway system, the District of Saanich that owns the Sayward Road access to Hwy 17 and BC Transit that maintains bus stops near several highway intersections.
Graham Shorthill, chair of the CBASN Traffic Committee says, “The Ministry had engaged the municipality several times in the past 20 years with dramatic proposals for fixing the intersection, but all of those that involved an interchange for Sayward were rejected several times by residents wanting to preserve the community and limit intrusion into Cordova Bay.”
Considering the sentiment around the elimination of the intersection, the stakeholders sought to identify simple, low cost, short-term solutions that could reduce the accident rate.
The working group met over a period of one year before calling a meeting at the Cordova Bay Community Center on Feb 19th, 2012 to share their findings with residents. With over 125 people in attendance, the event was standing room only and when the meeting was called to order, residents addressed the panel regarding the proposed changes on display.
As part of on-going improvements to the intersection new signage will be erected and the road will also have to be widened.
“Congestion Ahead” signage with flashing lights will be added ahead of the intersection to warn drivers to slow down. According to Lana Popham, “The Ministry has committed that lights will be going up this summer on the approach to Sayward.”
In addition, acceleration and deceleration lanes have been proposed for each side of the intersection on the North-bound side of the highway. Shorthill says, “this will give motorists a better chance to match speed and merge with the traffic flow.”
While the acceleration lane will benefit drivers, two property owners with driveways adjoining the highway are concerned about the safety implications of the proposed changes. Bonnie Blewett is one of those owners.
“At present, north-bound drivers are looking ahead and are aware of our attempts to merge with traffic. Under the proposed changes, drivers may be looking left or into their rear view mirrors rather that looking ahead, which adds difficulties and dangers for everyone involved because of our driveway,” says Blewett.
The addition of the acceleration lane necessitates that the bus stop, currently on the North side, be relocated to the South side of the intersection; this will require MOT to acquire a privately owned property.
Lila Gill owns this property and doesn’t really want to sell it but says, “If it will help stop the accidents and be beneficial for everybody, the government can purchase it.” To date, the government has not made her any offers and it is unknown when they will be able to accommodate this acquisition.
According to Shorthill, this is just the beginning of the process of solving a complex problem. He indicates these initial changes are simply Phase 1 of the improvements that will be required at the intersection and this work is expected to be completed in the next 12-24 months according to MOT officials who spoke at the community meeting.
Phase 2 will attempt at a later date to address the timing of the traffic lights, lane configuration and accommodating business access where Sayward Rd. meets Hamsterly Rd.
A progress report was scheduled for the CBASN Annual General Meeting on April 26.
Dangerous Intersections Ranked:
55,000 quotation via Video:
Do you think the speed limit on Highway 17 between Royal Oak and Sayward should be reduced to 70Km/h?
- No (78%, 7 Votes)
- Yes (22%, 2 Votes)
Total Voters: 9