Former Premier Horgan announced the $65m project on April 23, 2019 and the massive earth-moving/blasting expansion was delivered six months beyond his then-anticipated timeframe -- not shabby at all by many standards for undertakings of this size. No word yet on how close it came to meeting its budget estimate.
As per today's brief MOTI press release ... "Motorists are advised that two new lanes between Connie Road and Glinz Lake Road on Highway 14 near Sooke will open for travel on Friday, July 14, 2023. All lanes of Highway 14 will be open by midday, with the posted speed limit restored to its previous 60 km/h, up from a construction speed limit of 50 km/h. New median barriers and paint lines are in place. Additionally, bus stops will be active throughout the site and a new 45-stall park and ride will open. This marks another step toward the full completion of the Highway 14 corridor improvements expected in the coming weeks."
Definitely makes a world of difference for long-standing traffic safety issues in the area and provides a sleek new portal to traffic accessing and leaving East Sooke from Gillespie. Traffic volume along Sooke Road continues to grow, however, and that leaves the ball squarely in the District's court to either manage growth smartly or begin long-game advocacy with the Province for the $1 billion-plus it would take to construct an alternate route. As a big-city exile who treasures the region's relative peace, I'll say again that serious growth on Van Isle was intended to follow the Trans-Canada up the Malahat and along the east coast. May it continue to be so.
July 22, 2022 Three days after its opening, I had my first encounter this afternoon with half of the future four-lane stretch at 17 Mile after reading about its pros and cons on social media. A flagger stopped us in the eastbound lane for two minutes to allow heavy machinery to do its thing. And a car turning left onto the Gillespie connection held us up for approx. 15 seconds until a westbound driver paused and waved it through. Then on to my chores in Langford before joining the rush home.
The project is on track for completion later this year. Here's a Ministry of Transportation visualization of the road network near 17 Mile House. It's from the presentation materials released at the 2019 Open House at EMCS. Flip towards the back of this PDF to see visualizations of other impacted intersections.
Full details on the Ministry's Highway 14 page. MOTI just yesterday announced that it has wrapped its West Coast Road improvement work west of Gordon's Beach. It's the latest box tick for an ongoing series of regional road improvements neatly captured in this MOTI Flickr photo file.
PS If you're curious about the Wilson family's future plans for its commercially zoned property surrounding the 17 Mile House, check the public hearing materials in the council agenda of Feb. 8, 2021. The 17 Mile Liquor Store, the Adrena Line Zipline office and a grocery store (possibly Sooke's first Red Barn) are to be located in what's described as a "small, rural-style commercial complex" south of the pond in the fuzzy patch of the above illustration. (One of the best points I've seen raised in the last few days is that a guardrail is needed to prevent cars from sliding off the road into said pond on icy winter days or during speeding/distracted-driver mishaps.) A BC Transit Park-and-Ride is also part of the mix here.
Looking back to related content from this non-commuter's Facebook page:
June 26, 2021: "To repeat a theme stated time and again in these parts, most recently during this year's OCP public engagement: The single biggest reality check for Sooke's evolution is the fact that we've serviced by just the one, increasingly congested, two-lane highway.
How busy is our main road? Personal and anecdotal evidence is that we now face local rush hours quite unlike what Carolyn and I experienced on arrival here in 2003. And regional commuters must now deal with the "Sooke Slink" (to use Shannon Moneo's rather brilliant and catchy phrase) from Sassenos Elementary (on good days, as she says) and Cooper's Cove (on bad days).
So this bright morning i did some exploration ...
i) Sooke's Transportation Master Plan (2020) states that "Highway 14 experiences traffic volumes up to 20,000 vehicles per day. Otter Point Road is the busiest Collector Road with volumes up to 9,500 per day." The projected Average Daily Traffic entering Sooke in 2038 will be 25,000 vehicles. See the map on page 41. This estimate seems low to me given the projected 22k residents by that year.
ii) Present-day TMP data is derived from CRD traffic counts dating back to 2007.
iii) MOTI also maintains sporadic but telling data, i.e., Sooke River Road numbers comparing 2012 and 2018.
The TMP is accommodating growth with an expanded "complete streets" network highlighted by the long-planned Throup/Grant Road bypass that will channel local traffic off Sooke Rd. It also calls for intersection improvements at #14 and Church (underway this summer), Otter Point and Phillips Roads. (full details in the Transportation Master Plan, pp. 38-51)
The current #14 expansion to four lanes in North Sooke will help the flow TBD (i.e., somewhat) while dramatically improving safety. Obvious conclusion: Volume is growing in lockstep with Sooke's population increases and our 'carrying capacity' (or ideal population size) as a community that values free-flowing traffic and rates gridlock as one of our worst nightmares must be a prime consideration as we figure out Sooke's future."
May 20, 2020: "The latest Hwy #14 (Neil Creek to Glinz Lake Rd.) project developments were posted online this morning along with details of the key revisions emerging from the latest round of public feedback: The addition of a secondary road linking Manzer to Gillespie that will allow area residents to conveniently access the highway in both directions; a pedestrian underpass east of Glinz Lake Road to connect bus stops on either side of the road; and oversized culverts under the road that double as wildlife corridors.
The two-year (minimum) construction period is slated to begin later this year. Yes, inevitably, there will be inconvenience even though much of the new route does not follow the current one. MOTI promises that there will be no stoppages during peak travel times, and we will all be kept aware via ads, social media and electronic road signs of planned, non-peak delays caused by rock blasting and tree removal. (Cautions/hopes: Stuff happens ... patience is a virtue ... and telecommuting may well be a lasting upside from the COVID era and a partial solution to growing traffic congestion.)
In other news, MOTI will be installing new sidewalks on both sides of the West Coast Road from the Otter Point Rd. stop light west to Ed Macgregor Park in the months ahead. A crosswalk linking Gatewood Trail to the park is included (as was the wish of the kids and teachers at SOCLA [Sooke Options for Community Living Association] who routinely have troubles getting across the road to Ed Mac.)
May 16, 2020: "As a playful prelude to its major Highway #14 update announcement next week, MOTI has added this vintage 16mm clip to its "Road Trip Time Machine" archive. Filming took place on May 11, 1966, a Wednesday. The town centre arrives at 2:48, ten seconds after the bridge crossing. Bonus: Slow moo-ving traffic on the approach to Jordan River (where the road ended back then) at the 6:00 mark. (That's right, the image chosen to preview the clip is the 17 Mile House Pub, the heart of the 2km/4-lane highway expansion over the next two years).
April 23, 2019: "Just back from the Premier's press conference outside the 17 Mile House Pub. He formally announced the four-laning of Hwy #14 from Connie to Glinz Lake Road. It's expected to be complete by the end of 2022, and "will make life better and safer for the people of Sooke," said Mr. Horgan.
The project will cost $65 million in federal and provincial funding ~ 80 percent of the cost of the McKenzie overpass and proof once more that a bona fide alternate route to Sooke is a short-and-mid-term fantasy given the $500 million (minimum) costs that would be involved.
Five of the six property owners who will lose their homes have agreed to fair-market settlements with the Ministry of Transportation; negotiations continue with the other 22 affected property owners. Sooke Fire Chief Ken Mount is pleased with the new configuration and figures it improves emergency response services in the area even with a median along this stretch and the requirement for his team to navigate new u-turns in responding to local calls.
The Premier noted that almost all of the Hwy #14 Corridor Improvements promised in early 2018 are now complete -- Roche Cove bridge, Sombrio pullover and Sooke River Road stoplight included.
A stoplight is one of the options under consideration, this one just east of the 17 Mile to allow local and East Sooke traffic to merge into the stream. (Still another is promised for Charters Rd. to deal with the traffic generated by the new BC Housing affordable complex at Drennan.)
A kinder surprise bonus slipped into today's announcement was that the shoulders along the West Coast Road will be widened and paved from Gordon's Beach as far west as Woodhaven Rd. on our side of French Beach Provincial Park -- a $20-million boon for intrepid cyclists travelling on what has long been rated a dangerous stretch of winding, super-picturesque roadway.
Best moment for me: A passing motorist shouted 'end the carbon tax' loudly enough for all of us milling around the future park'n'ride at 17 Mile to hear him. The Premier promptly fired back: "Yeah, the carbon tax. Buddy, that .1 cent per litre must be killing you." Very cool customer, our Mr. Premier."
Also from this blog
- Spring 2019 at the time the Sooke River Road intersection was near completion
- November 2018, a long post with many links capturing earlier upgrades and plans. This was written back when I was finding the road much less safe (and rather less busy) than it is today.