Residents of Portage Inlet – a neighbourhood bordered by Admirals Road and Highway 1 – say they’ve put up with many inconveniences over the past few years as the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) has undertaken construction of the McKenzie interchange and now, neighbours worry their concerns about safety, noise and environmental restoration could fall to the wayside as the $96-million project concludes.
George Blogg, local resident and president of the Portage Inlet Sanctuary Colquitz Estuary Society, has been a spokesperson for the Portage Inlet neighbourhood since construction began at the interchange and has liaised with MoTI for four years. He pointed out that theirs is the only residential quadrant of the project and that neighbours have long been vocal about safety concerns and noise issues, among other things.
Neighbours initially supported the interchange because they assumed the ministry would “do a decent job and treat [residents] fairly” but despite numerous meetings over the years, the community doesn’t “feel like an equal participant,” he explained.
Most recently, the matter of land restoration has been a concern. The once-green neighbourhood has become grey as large trees and grass were replaced with gravel, asphalt and a large sound-barrier fence, Blogg said, adding that he’s hoping for replacement greenery but hasn’t received confirmation.
The ministry has told neighbours to be patient but “we’re not seeing a lot of good news here,” Blogg said, gesturing to the interchange from his vantage point on Portage Road. With just a few months of construction remaining, he said they’re losing hope.
“[We’re] worried that the circus is going to leave town and we’ll be left with a mess,” Blogg explained, noting that many homeowners along Esson and Portage roads report feeling “disillusioned and frustrated” and plan to move.
“What we want is restoration, reclamation and safety. We want the neighbourhood restored to some semblance of what it was and we don’t see that happening,” Blogg said. “We’re trying to get something positive done and hopefully there’s still time.”
In an email to Black Press Media on Aug. 7, a spokesperson for MoTI explained that residents’ concerns are being heard and that once construction of the entire interchange is completed in the next few months, safety on Admirals Road and at the intersection of Admirals and Esson roads can be addressed and improved.
MoTI added that sound barrier walls that meet the ministry’s standards have been installed at the interchange and that landscaping will be completed along with other final pieces – including bus stops and a stormwater treatment pond – after the loop ramp opens at the end of August.