Truck traffic conflict on Hovey Road in Central Saanich

Residents, District and First Nation at odds over use of narrow rural route.

Karen Brain of Central Saanich rides along Hovey and Tomlinson roads.

“An accident waiting to happen,” is what some residents along Hovey Road in Central Saanich are saying when it comes to the frequent use of large trucks along the route.

It was a hostile environment at Monday night’s committee of the whole meeting at the District of Central Saanich offices, as residents voiced their passionate concerns on safety.

Acting mayor, Christopher Graham, had to redirect people’s focus back to the issue as passion mixed in with anger.

In December, council received a petition and delegation from residents asking that load restrictions be implemented along Hovey Road.

Again, they cited safety as their primary concern.

The issue has grown over the past couple months as residents say large commercial trucks are hauling cargo to and from the nearby Tsartlip First Nation at the west end of Hovey. The company using the route is V.I Pallet Recovery, a company that was once based on Wain Road in North Saanich but recently leased land on the Tsartlip First Nation.

Resident after resident brought up their concern, from children riding their bikes up and down the road and horse riders that use the road and all of them simply not having enough room or distance away from the commercial truck traffic.

In a recent phone interview on the issue, Mayor Ryan Windsor said part of the problem is that there currently isn’t another way trucks can go.

“All the other roads that would potentially lead into there don’t quite make it,” he said. “Gowdy (Road) for instance only makes it about half way before it terminates. It’s a fairly narrow road.”

Windsor added there is no access to the property off of West Saanich Road. He suggested during Monday night’s committee meeting that the operator provide a detailed schedule so residents know when the trucks would go by. The schedule, he added, is to make people aware and be able to plan around it.

“In the absence of other regulations presently, some information is better than no information,” he said.

Widening the road was raised as a possibility, but many residents stated they didn’t like that idea. They said making the road wider would not stop the traffic problem and conflicts with pedestrians and other users of the route.

Hovey Road is 3.3 metres wide at its narrowest point and Windsor said that is much lower than their current municipal standard of 6.7 metres for a rural agricultural road.

“Widening the road gives the trucks some place to be while others can pass. Arguably, does it solve all the problems that residents perceive? Perhaps not,” said Windsor.

In the end, the idea of road widening did not proceed past initial discussions.

Central Saanich placed a traffic counting device along the road in December, to assess how many vehicle trips were taking place and the size of the vehicle. It has since been replaced as of last week, following allegations of tampering.

“I think we know there are vehicles coming up and down this road and really my interest is in technical data …” Windsor said.

The decision of the committee was to defer the matter or “pend,” as Windsor phrased it, to wait for further discussions with the Tsartlip First Nation at a Community to Community Forum that took place Tuesday night.

During that session, Tsartlip Band Councillor Joni Olson voiced her concern over the road issue.

“We do have a say over these lands …” she said, adding widening the road wouldn’t satisfy the residents.

When asked by Central Saanich Councillor Alicia Holman what the long-term plan would be, Olson said it’s to build a new road. However, she added First Nations do not benefit from government infrastructure funding, so doing the work on their own presents a challenge.

Graham said the issue is difficult as the District is dealing with upset residents and a business. He said the situation makes a win-win situation difficult to achieve.

Tsartlip Chief Councillor Don Tom said his community takes pride in an individual starting a business. He added their council doesn’t want the Hovey Road matter to be a barrier to the relationship between the two peoples. He said he is open to collaborating to address the issue.

“Emotions are very high …” he said.

The general consensus around the table Tuesday night was to potentially form a partnership around infrastructure improvements. However, no formal decision was made to proceed.