Well, who in Sooke has not been impacted in some way or another by traffic? I dare say everyone here has a traffic story to share.
But have no fear, the B.C. government’s $85-million Sooke Road highway project is touted to make life better for residents and commuters alike. The question, though, is commuter life in Sooke about to get any better?
Many I have spoken to are surprised to learn this project that brings four lanes with desired passing opportunities (aka speeding enforcement, and yes, enforcement pullovers are part of this project) is only 1½ kilometres long.
This is not Sooke Roads first project to nowhere. The first one, known as the Sookihalla, was built in the 1990s. It too gave passing opportunities (aka speed enforcement) but also began and ended nowhere.
This current project will still leave the balance of the 23-kilometre stretch prone to closure from trees on the road or six emergency vehicles blocking the road for a fender bender. The premier was stuck in Sooke on the day of the project announcement due to road closure outside the 1½-kilometre stretch.
The biggest, and most pressing problem that will exist despite this project, is that no matter what, the road will be squeezed down to two lanes, whether in Saseenos, the Sooke River Bridge, or the downtown core.
I did calculations three years ago when I noticed the increasing Sooke Jam. I learned that the line of cars I could see stretching from Phillips Road to the 17 Mile Pub was about eight kilometres long. Doing simple math using an average length of the vehicle at 15 feet and 15 feet spacing while moving slow meant that as of then, there were approximately 894 cars in that jam.
I then calculated how many cars would fit between the Sookihalla and Phillips Road (arguably the first significant exit of commuting traffic). I found that the road has a capacity for 2,515 cars in its current configuration.
With the current 1½ section being double lane, it will allow for 164 more cars to fit.
Now according to the 2016 Census, Sooke had 5,5599 dwellings and grew at 2.74 per year.
This means approximately 153 new private dwellings per year X2 cars per owner, plus one for the suite = 459 new cars on our highway each year and of course, that does not include compounding growth.
Using those numbers meant that within 3½ years from the time I did my math, the traffic jam would start at Kangaroo Road. Well, imagine my surprise in the past few months of driving east in the afternoon, seeing the mess almost at Kangaroo Road.
The question is, who is paying attention and what is the plan? Who is moving to Sooke for lifestyle and lower housing prices but wants to sit in an almost 20-kilometre traffic jam? With accelerating growth, that jam will start at the end of the Sookihalla in less than five years, without any new traffic lights.
This white elephant project is less than a bandage, and even if planning started today, we are over a decade away from construction and completion of a viable bypass (if we could pass environmental and engineering hurdles and protests and assuming the government found a money tree).
Even if we halted new home construction tomorrow, the current jam is here to stay, and so I ask, what do we do about Sooke’s Road to nowhere?
It’s time to ask your elected representatives.
Derek Lewers is a longtime Sooke resident.