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Bus traffic on the Saanich Peninsula to get jump up with new lanes

Budget for project totals $7.6 million
R.J. Patenaude with Milestone Equipment Contracting works on the southeastern side of the intersection at Highway 17 and Mount Newton Cross Road, where the company is currently constructing bus jumping lanes. (Wolf Depner/News staff)

Residents of the Saanich Peninsula can expect additional information about the proposed flyover in Central Saanich in the coming weeks and the budget for the bus queue lanes currently under construction includes a contingency for inflation.

Janelle Staite, regional deputy director with the ministry of transportation and infrastructure, made these comments in an interview with Black Press Media, which focused on the bus queue lanes currently under construction at the corner of Mount Newton Cross Road and Highway 17.

Announced in January, the lanes allow buses travelling on the Pat Bay Highway to jump to the front of line when stopping at the intersection, which often experiences long lines on red, especially during ferry-related traffic periods. While Staite could not provide specific figures measuring time savings of travel by bus with the lanes and without the lanes, the goal is to make bus travel more competitive relative to travel by personal automobile.

The project emerged from the South Island Transportation Strategy and is part of broader efforts to help reduce emissions by improving active forms of transportation and transit.

Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor welcomed the additional investments in the bus lanes. “Here is what we talked about — the need for rapid bus coming up and down the highway,” he said. “Well, this enables it or it certainly helps to enable it. “

RELATED: Improved service to Victoria International Airport, rapid Peninsula bus, in transit plan

Within three to five years, residents could see the initial implementation of the proposed Peninsula Rapid Bus Line, which would increase service on Route 70 to every 30 minutes, seven days a week, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. as a stepping stone toward 15-minute service, said senior transit planner with BC Transit Levi Megenbir in an interview last year. But Megenbir warned against excessive expectations, noting that such a rapid bus line would require a significant phase-in period.

The bus queue lanes will help existing, as well future transit on Highway 17 and local pedestrians as the project also includes improvements for them, said Staite.

While the site does not present any specific challenges in terms of the geology, challenges include management of the pedestrian traffic with the work happening near a major pedestrian crossing, said Staite. The intersection is also busy, especially during the summer when ferry traffic is at its peak, she said, stressing the importance of public communication.

The construction of the bus lanes also coincides with a period of inflation. The project’s budget totals $7.6 million and Staite said the project includes a contingency for various aspects including inflation.

Another major infrastructure project awaiting the travelling public is the proposed flyover allowing northbound traffic on Highway 17 to enter Central Saanich through Keating Road without having to cross southbound traffic on Highway 17. Staite said the province will share additional information in the coming week. With the project not yet tendered, it is not clear when work would start, she said, adding that the goal is to keep the two projects for as long as possible to minimize disruptions to the travelling public. Plans call for the bus queue lanes to be finished in the fall.

This said, Staite could not preclude the possibility that the two projects might overlap.

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Construction continues on bus jumping lanes at the intersection of Highway 17 and Mount Newton Cross Road, here looking at southbound traffic, the lanes promise to improve current and future bus service. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)