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Safety barriers arrive on Malahat starting Monday

Jul 05 2012
Safety barriers are being installed on the Malahat to separate oncoming traffic lanes. 

Safety barriers are being installed on the Malahat to separate oncoming traffic lanes.

Photograph by: Victoria Times Colonist , July 2012

New concrete barriers will arrive on the Malahat highway Monday, but most of the  $8 million in safety improvements promised by the government won’t begin until later this year.

The first medians will be installed in the middle of the highway on a 1.4 kilometre stretch just north of Goldstream Provincial Park and Finlayson Arm Road, Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom announced Wednesday.

Those dividers, designed to prevent high-speed head-on crashes, will link up to existing concrete medians further north, on what’s called Tunnel Hill.

The winding Malahat highway connects Greater Victoria with the rest of Vancouver Island but has been the sight of a series of fatal crashes that safety advocates say could have been prevented with concrete dividers.

Construction crews will need five days to install the new concrete medians, but Lekstrom said most of the work will be done overnight — between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. — to limit driver inconvenience.

“There will be some traffic disruption, it’s the double-edged sword,” said Lekstrom.

“People want work done, and then once work starts, usually when there’s traffic disruption, they’re not too happy with that.

“But I’d definitely as the minister rather answer questions about the inconvenience of the traffic flow if we’re improving safety to our highways than the other way around.”

The construction marks the beginning of 5.4 km of centre-line dividers and intersection upgrades the provincial government announced in March to improve highway safety. When complete, in 2013, approximately 40 per cent of the Malahat will have concrete medians to prevent head-on crashes.

“We make the announcement and then some people wonder if it’s going to happen,” said Lekstrom. “This is the start of it.”

The Transportation Ministry said it  plans to install the next round of barriers on the top of Tunnel Hill in August. That location is best known as the site of frequent road-side police radar due to motorists using the long straight stretch of four-lane highway for high-speed passing.

The medians should run almost to Aspen Road, where the Malahat will need to be widened next spring, the ministry said.

The bulk of the rest of the Malahat improvements — including barriers and road widening at Shawnigan Lake Road, as well as added acceleration and deceleration lanes near the Malahat Village gas station — won’t begin until the fall because detailed design is required and the government said it still has to hire a construction company.

The new medians near Goldstream park won’t change access to Finlayson Arm Road or limit the public’s ability to turn southbound from Finlayson, across Malahat traffic, back onto the highway, the ministry said.

The work will mean the elimination of the northbound passing lane near the park, part of which will eventually be turned into an acceleration lane for traffic merging from Finlayson Arm Road.

Lekstrom said all of the upgrades are expected to be complete by spring of 2013.

rshaw@timescolonist.com

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