“It’s all basically the dream but the dream has started,” said Mayor Rod Peters July 9.
Initial talks have begun towards getting the Town of Lake Cowichan a second road crossing to the south of the Cowichan River.
Peters was explaining at the town finance committee meeting that the week before he and Town CAO Joe Fernandez met with officials from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure about the need for more access to the south side of the Cowichan River.
“We applied, through the CVRD, and it was actually part of LIFT that started it.” LIFT is a group that includes the Town of Lake Cowichan, Area I, Area F, and the Ts’uubaa’asatx First Nation plus a variety of other agency representatives.
A smiling Peters was obviously pleased to be able to share his news.
“They are going to start a preliminary look at a design perspective of putting a road in east of town and come across to Hudgrove Road and then along Block 200 and then across TimberWest land to come out just the other side of the entrance to Lakeview Park, by Fairservice Main,” he said.
“They [the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure] are going to do a study for us, they’re willing to put some funds forward, to look at doing it in phases. The first phase would be from the highway into Hudgrove Road, which would give access to that Block 200, with costs and everything like that. And they were going to meet with us again when they’ve got that done.
“We’ve finally got our foot in the door to get a bypass road. It’s for emergency purposes, mostly, in the case of a forest fire or an earthquake, or whatever else could happen. It’s also for economic development for the town and access to Block 200. It could also be a bypass for heavy trucks, logging trucks, because it’s very precarious for the logging trucks to go through what they call traffic calming [which is prevalent along the main street of Lake Cowichan]. It would be a lot easier for everybody if the logging trucks didn’t have to go by there.
“They seemed very excited about doing this for us. I think it’s pretty exciting for us after I don’t know how many years of trying to get a bypass that we’ve finally got somebody doing something on it. It won’t happen in my time but as long as we can get inside the door there, it’s good…that we’ve got this far.”
Counc. Kristine Sandhu asked if, since obviously TimberWest would be involved in this project at some point, if anyone was talking to them yet.
Peters replied, “Couverdon, which is their real estate company, has that property there that they would like to develop. They could be approached by MOTI saying: before we go in there we need some help and we would like to work on the design. Here’s a set of plans, maybe you could help finance this as well. We also talked about that Block 200, where the owners want to put some industrial commercial in there. They could also help doing something with the financing.”
Coun. Lorna Vomacka asked about the route.
“Are they talking about bypassing Block 200 but not going through it because it’s private land and the owner may not want us to go through there?”
Peters replied, “You’ll see that they are going to do a design adjusting the alignment as per funding. Like they say, they are going to get hold of environmental, geotechnical, and archaeological information and produce a high level cost estimate of the easiest way to do it.”
Coun. Tim McGonigle said, “We’ve moved from community plan that was 20 years in the making to the stage of community interest [and now] to government interest.”
Fernandez said that although the Town has been asked to help with some funding it might not be practical for Lake Cowichan to offer much help in mapping territory that is actually outside its borders but McGonigle said he thought the Cowichan Valley Regional District would be willing to step up with help as well.
The talks with the provinvial government began after Peters wrote back in March to MOTI Minister Claire Trevena on behalf of the town, other local politicians, economic development people, business and community interests, and Lake Cowichan’s Ts’uubaa’asatx First Nation.
Local interest in an alternate transportation route for both opportunities and for safety emerged as early as Jan. 24, at an economic development meeting, he said.
Because of talk about the new community plan and consideration being given to opening the 300-acre parcel known as Block 200 to “employment opportunity” zoning in the new plan, the idea gained momentum and the road was even included in the plan.
“Given increased growth projections and subsequent transportation demands for Lake Cowichan and the surrounding region, there is a pressing need to look at transportation solutions that will have a positive impact on our communities.”
MOTI representative Michael Pearson, in an email to Peters July 4, said the ministry would be ready to get started on “a high level cost estimate that can inform further planning and budgetary work for the design and construction of the entire bypass alignment. This can also be broken down into components (i.e. the bridge crossing and perhaps sections of the bypass.”
Those were exciting words for council but as Peters mentioned, even more exciting was Pearson’s comment that, “the ministry is prepared to undertake this initial work of better understanding the potential of a Lake Cowichan bypass and to assist the municipality in better understanding the feasibility and costs associated with it.”
But, Pearson pointed out, “The ministrty is not committing to funding or undertaking the construction of a bypass route. As discussed, I suspect that a significant portion, if not all of this bypass would be constructed through a subdivision development process. This work, however, will inform everyone of the order of magnitude of costs needed to achieve this.”