A temporary rest stop has been established in Sidney to support transport truck drivers delivering critical supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an effort to halt the spread of coronavirus, public restrooms across the province are closed – including the one between Sidney and the Swartz Bay ferry terminal, said Chief Brett Mikkelsen of the Sidney Volunteer Fire Department. This has made things difficult for truck drivers who need places to rest, eat and clean up while working to deliver essential goods.
The Sidney Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) staff established a temporary critical supply chain rest stop in the parking lot outside the Mary Winspear Centre near the Patricia Bay Highway. The western half of the parking lot will be closed to the public while the rest stop is operational but parking will still be permitted in the eastern section, Mikkelsen explained.
The spot was chosen because of its proximity to restaurants and grocery stores – specifically, a 24 hour Tim Hortons committed to staying open during the pandemic, Mikkelsen said. He pointed out that drivers used to be able to grab a meal on the ferry but food services were shut down for health reasons on March 19. He added that given Sidney is the first town drivers pass leaving the Swartz Bay ferry terminal, it made sense to set up a place for them to stop and get what they need.
Concerns about the lack of facilities for truck drivers was brought to the attention of the Sidney EOC by a representative from the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce on March 25 and by the next day, the space was made available to transport drivers. Procuring signs and portable toilets took another day so the rest stop was fully operational on March 27.
Town staff will maintain the washrooms and garbage facilities and drivers are allowed to park overnight.
Mikkelsen assumes this is the first temporary rest stop created in response to the pandemic, but he doesn’t feel it matters who’s first. For him, it’s about providing a much-needed service for truck drivers during the pandemic.
The critical supply chain is dependent on delivery drivers being able to do their jobs, he said, and a lack of food and rest stops would negatively impact the transportation of goods on the Island.
Signs have been posted to alert truck drivers to the new rest stop site and word is being spread to members of the B.C. Trucking Association, Mikkelsen said, noting that in just a few days there has been “considerable interest.”
“We’re working long days here to respond to whatever needs come up,” he said.
Mikkelsen added that Sidney residents have been respecting the safety orders from the provincial health officer which has made the EOC staff’s jobs easier.