After reading your umpteenth editorial about how the Malahat highway supposedly needs no further widening (Our View, Sept. 2), I found myself stuck on a conundrum. If two or three lanes are good enough for the Malahat, why was much of the Island Highway further north widened to four lanes at great expense decades ago when traffic volumes were only a fraction of what they are today?
There seems to be two main schools of thought regarding the type of intercity traffic arteries we should have here on the Island.
One is the optimalist philosophy which holds that the provincial government should physically protect good drivers from the speeders by providing four-lane divided highways on its busiest routes.
Left turn intersections should be replaced by overpasses and exit ramps.
This view appears to be held mainly by truckers, commuters, and intercity motorists.
Many of them are demanding a freeway and are sometimes refusing to take “no” for an answer, especially if they have migrated here from parts of mainland Canada where superhighways are the norm.
Then there is the minimalist philosophy. This view holds that the provincial government has no particular obligations to its motorists beyond providing police enforcement and a few basic safety features of the type described in your latest Malahat editorial; i.e. roadside reflectors and the like.
Special protections for good drivers simply pander to bad drivers. We should all trust that improved police enforcement will keep us safe by reforming or removing all the bad drivers from our highways.
Fiscal restraint rules, and the government can engage in cost-cutting to its heart’s content. It is fully up to every motorist to passively accept and adapt to whatever type of highway the government provides. This view is held by the provincial government (obviously!), highway merchants, and some community newspapers that appear to speak on their behalf.
Most other Islanders seem to be split on the issue.
We can endlessly and vainly debate it, or we can take the democratic measure of holding an Island-wide referendum to let the government know whether we want optimal or minimal standards of safety and efficiency for our busiest intercity highways. Will Victoria allow us a direct vote?