The centre of the main roundabout a the McTavish Road interchange in North Saanich received new landscaping. South Island Mainroad Contracting says it was done to save tax dollars and will be maintained to ensure visibility for drivers. (Steven Heywood/News Staff)

North Saanich roundabouts get new landscaping

McTavish Interchange landscaping cheaper, still safe

Landscaping going into in the centre of a pair of roundabouts at the McTavish Road Interchange in North Saanich had a lot of people talking — but that’s not necessarily new when it comes to the controversial section of road.

This month, South Island Mainroad Contracting has been replacing the long grass and rocks in the centre of those roundabouts with slower-growing grass, tulips and four saplings. After posting a photo of the work on the News Review’s Facebook page, readers sounded off — both for and against — the work.

Rick Gill, general manager of Mainroad’s South Island office, knows all too well the amount of complaints that are leveled at the interchange. His company has the road maintenance contract for the Province of B.C. in the region and they maintain not only the roadway itself, but the flora on government property around it.

Gill says that Mainroad, in consultation with the Province, is trying to save taxpayers’ dollars by going with landscaping that does not require as much maintenance as the fast-growing long grass that was there before.

“It was a maintenance nightmare,” he said, noting that the tall grass always garnered complaints from the public and was labour intensive to keep under control.

Gill said crews have planted different, slower-growing grass and trees that will grow upwards, rather than outwards, in order to ensure drivers can see traffic within the roundabouts. The new landscaping, he explained, cost an estimated $10,000 and will be monitored by another landscaping company for the first season of growth, to ensure sight lines are maintained.

RELATED: Signal early, have patience when negotiating roundabouts.

Gill said it’s there’s always a balance to maintain when it comes to roadside landscaping. Not only does it have to look good to motorists going by at 80 km/hr, but it also has to allow drivers can see through it. He added that making traffic circles look good can sometimes sacrifice the drive safety concerns. In this case, he said the trees should grow to have six or eight feet of stem, before the canopy.

Gill said the main reason for the change is to reduce hours spent maintaining the area — and in the end save the Province money, and put more money into other road upkeep needs.

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