Saturday, April 27, 2019 ~ SOOKE
~ by Mary P Brooke, West Shore Voice News
Traffic was at a dead halt in both directions on Highway 14 (Sooke Road) for most of Friday afternoon, April 26.
The gridlock of eventually hundreds of vehicles — both eastbound and westbound — resulted from a safety-first road closure after a power line fell to the road, pulled down by a tree blown over by wind. The weather was otherwise clear and without rain.
Strong winds were prevalent in the weather profile for much of this past week in which Premier John Horgan happened to make two formal government announcements outdoors in Sooke — one on Tuesday which ironically celebrated the upcoming four-laning of a portion of Highway 14 as a way to improve traffic efficiencies, and another on Friday to announce the expansion of the existing West Coast Family Medical Clinic.
The downed power line in 5300-block Sooke Road was reported to BC Hydro at about 1:43 pm on Friday afternoon. Over 1,500 BC Hydro customers lost electric service.
At least twice, ambulances or emergency vehicles with sirens blaring made their way cautiously but fairly quickly between the lanes of traffic, during the 2.5 hour traffic gridlock.
BC Hydro repair crews were onsite to begin repairs around 3:15 pm. Traffic was allowed through a few cars at a time for some portions of the wait, but full traffic flow was initiated again eastbound around 4:30 pm. Even at 5 pm the westbound traffic was backed up into the four-lane near Langford. Some motorists reported sitting in the westbound lane for 2.5 hours.
Improving traffic efficiency is intended to support commuters, residents and tourists, the Premier said in his announcement on Tuesday. Between the Sooke Road four-laning near 17 Mile Pub and shoulder widening west of Sooke (where the highway is called West Coast Road), the price tag is $85 million.
People sitting in their vehicles for hours may experience health concerns (from hunger to needing medications, or seniors finding it overwhelming) or miss various types of appointments (including picking up children from school, for business, or connections with other travel such as flights at the airport).
And whereas taking the bus is touted as being more efficient or saving time compared to driving a vehicle to and from Sooke to Victoria, at least one #61 bus (Sooke<>Victoria) was caught in Friday’s gridlock.
Also ‘stuck in Sooke’ was Premier Horgan who — after announcing the medical clinic expansion — had attended the official opening of the Knox Centre affordable housing project on Church Road. He found out about the blocked traffic on Highway 14 while visiting with residents and touring the building. SD62 teased in a Tweet that the Premier visit Saseenos Elementary while he was delayed in Sooke, but blocked eastbound traffic was even blocking access to that school on Sooke Road.