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Bridge improvements mean faster commute times for Westshore residents

Bridge upgrade project will reduce the Mackenzie “pinch” and duration of the Colwood crawl

In July 2021, the CRD board directed staff to take direction to implement a list of its regional transportation priorities. One of those priorities was reducing commute times in the region. 

Last week, BC minister of transportation and infrastructure Rob Fleming announced upgrades to Colquitz River Bridges that he says will improve commuting time from the Westshore into downtown Victoria.  

Seismic retrofitting will widen the Highway 1-Colquitz River Bridge for the existing two-lane bridges over Burnside Road on Highway 1. A bus-on-shoulder lane will be added to each bridge, connecting and extending the bus lanes in both directions from Tillicum Road to the McKenzie Interchange. The shoulder lane means that transit users will also be able to count on increased bus transit reliability along the same route. 

“To build a brighter future for Canadians, the federal government is investing in projects that improve connectivity and resiliency,” said Jonathan Wilkinson, federal minister of energy and natural resources.

The changes will create a continuous transit corridor—meaning buses will not be a part of the main traffic flow while they travel in designated shoulder lanes—between downtown Victoria and the McKenzie Interchange. The Colquitz bridge project provides the infrastructure needed for the Westshore RapidBus to better meet the increased ridership goals laid out by BC Transit in 2021. No routing changes are planned for bus service during the construction period.

Photo: BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure

Project investments total $35.5 million with the province contributing $23.5 million and the federal government contributing $12 million through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.

As Westshore grows, so does traffic 

The announcement is timely, with population and housing developments going up in Langford and View Royal—and traffic going up with them. The Capital Regional District is projected to reach  500,000 people in around 15 years, with the population rising 20% from 2019 to 2038. More than half of that projected growth will occur in the Westshore. That means a lot more cars will be on the road, unless rapid transit plans can gain a firmer foothold.

Between 2018 and 2022, the number of vehicles owned across Westshore municipalities grew by an average of 10.9%. In Langford, insurance registrations rose by 13.8% followed by Sooke with a rise of 12.6%. In 2022, Capital Daily reported that 85,000 vehicle drivers endure what has come to be known as the “Colwood Crawl” each day.

“Transit is vital to our region and this infrastructure improvement will make the bus more convenient for people who commute in and out of the downtown core,” said Bruce Williams, chief executive officer of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce.

The construction, led by Quebec-based Pomerleau Inc., is anticipated to begin summer 2024 and carry into the fall of 2025. Highway 1 and Burnside Road West will remain open throughout the construction period with lane closures limited to off-peak hours.