It’s time to get moving on the Cowichan Connector

Now that summer is here Duncan traffic is worse than ever

It’s time to get moving on the Cowichan Connector

By Bill Dumont and Andrew Poland

Our highway system is key to commerce and economic development and connects the Island and its people. With the Mackenzie interchange in Victoria currently under construction, the second worst Vancouver Island highway congestion in Duncan desperately needs government attention. And now that summer is here Duncan traffic is worse than ever.

Mid island drivers and tourists hate the increasing delays and mess trying to head north or south through Duncan and are frustrated by the 13 sets of lights in this 13 kilometre stretch of Canada’s national highway. It’s time for governments to get moving on the Cowichan Connector to bypass the congestion from south of Cowichan Bay Road to Highway 18 in the north.

The existing Hwy. 1 route was originally constructed to avoid congestion in downtown Duncan and provide a bypass for through traffic many years ago. Time, new developments and increased traffic have now made another bypass critical.

Some 30,000 to 45,000 vehicles per day get caught up in the Duncan bottleneck with locals moving across this main highway, and are delayed up to an hour or more depending on the time of day and traffic. Students heading to and from schools are at risk from the increasing traffic.

Any minor construction or accidents along this stretch of the Trans-Canada highway cause huge traffic snarls.

Summertime is the worst with tourists, visitors and locals prevented from reaching their destinations without long delays. Morning, evening and even afternoons see big lineups of more than 3,000 vehicles per hour including large transport trucks, logging and lumber trucks, buses and cars stuck at the Duncan traffic lights. In addition to the 13 sets of lights that have to be wrestled with there are many left turn lanes, pedestrians and cross streets that also interfere with traffic trying to move efficiently through Duncan.

For those living south of Duncan it is far easier and less hassle to go to Mill Bay or Langford for shopping and services rather than head north to the ever increasing traffic mess in Duncan. Now that the decision to build the new Cowichan hospital north of Duncan has been made we need new access to get ambulances quickly from south of Duncan unimpeded to the hospital site.

Our environment and air quality are also suffering. You can smell the diesel and gas fumes in downtown Duncan on a busy afternoon as thousands of vehicles are held up by the worsening traffic congestion. There have been hundreds of accidents and many fatalities along this dangerous, congested stretch of Hwy. 1 over the past decade.

Duncan businesses are seriously affected as potential patrons wanting access find huge delays moving through the congestion to support their local businesses.

Most of the initial planning for the Connector was done more than 10 years ago and several viable routes have been identified. Now we need to move forward as it will take five years or more to make the Cowichan Connector a reality. Along with improved environmental benefits there will be safer access to areas and destinations North and South of Duncan, First Nations lands, Lake Cowichan and other new developments to the west including the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit, the Sunfest Music Festival site and Port Renfrew.

It’s time to act on this vital Island transportation link.

Andrew Poland owns Poland Crane and Hauling Limited, a Duncan based business serving all of Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, Coastal Mainland & Interior. His business success depends on good highways.

Bill Dumont lives and works in Cobble Hill, is an active community volunteer and is a frequent traveller on Highway 1.