Relief for businesses as highway signage changes go on hold

Any changes to the provincial highway signage policy are on hold indefinitely, Economic Development manager Geoff Millar reported to the Cowichan Valley Regional District last week.

“This is actually a really good thing,” he said. “It short-cuts some of the issues that had come forward by the tourism industry and by the CVRD.”

Businesses and local governments in the Cowichan Valley expressed serious concerns about proposed changes to the provincial policy that would have eliminated most of the existing signs along the Trans-Canada Highway from Victoria to Nanaimo, as the plan was to designate it an “expressway”.

Merridale Cider’s Janet Docherty called the proposed changes “devastating” for tourism businesses that rely on signs to get people to turn off the highway and visit their sites.

Municipality of North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure and Millar called it “ridiculous” and unrealistic to designate the Duncan corridor, with a 50km/h speed limit, dotted with stop lights and crosswalks and regularly jammed with traffic, an expressway.

Both also objected to the idea that, under proposed changes, municipalities would have to pick and choose just a few select businesses that could go on entryway signs to their areas.

But according Colin Coulter, operations technician/area manager and signage approval officer for the Ministry of Transportation, everything is on hold for the foreseeable future, said Millar.

“He indicated that it may be some time before any changes or further consultation is done and in the meantime the current provincial policy will remain in effect,” Millar reported.

“So that means the issues that we were concerned about, the expressway between Nanaimo and Victoria, are now moot at this point,” he told the CVRD’s regional services committee.

In addition to the signage changes, Valley businesses have expressed concerns about the impact that construction on the Malahat will have on the region this summer.