Malahat Safety Improvements: Round Two

It’s full steam ahead for a second round of safety improvements on the Malahat, with work expected to kick off in May and finish in the spring of 2015.

Once this work is completed, over 50% of the Malahat will have median barriers. These improvements were identified in the 2012 Malahat Corridor study, and were also identified as a priority by the Malahat Advisory Group, which includes local residents, commuters, first responders and safety advocates.

3987-Malahat_Corridor_Project_smThose upgrades we’re planning include:

  • extension of the southbound passing lane and median barrier of “NASCAR Corner” (as known to locals)
  • continuation of median barriers immediately north and south of this area.
  • constructing U-turns on the side of the highway at either end of the new barrier, located at the side of Shawnigan Lake road and on the side of the highway north of the summit

Safety of the travelling public is our number one priority, but improving safety with median barriers does affect access to some properties so that’s the reason behind the U-turn lanes. They can be used by both emergency vehicles and other motorists trying to get to homes and businesses along that stretch of the highway.

Because this is a very large project, motorists can expect delays during construction. We will do our very best to let you know in advance of any delays via DriveBC and will try to keep those interruptions to the absolute minimum. Once a work schedule is in place, we will share it with you here.

With any news of Vancouver Island and transportation, we should also mention the Vancouver Island Transportation Plan, which we’ll be consulting with you about really soon. We want to hear from you on how we can improve the safety and mobility of travel on the island, by land, rail, air and sea, helping us to outline the government’s priorities for the next 10 years.

Do you have a question that isn’t answered here? Let us know in the comments below and we will try to get an answer for you.

38 comments on “Malahat Safety Improvements: Round Two”

Leave a Comment

  1. i write about the dangerous merge lane southbound from the top of the malahat , the intersection with south shawnigan lake road

    almost 2 accidents now . traffic is coming too fast downhill to make a safe merge , its a short merge lane into ONE lane of traffic . today i had to suddenly brake because i could not risk trying to merge in and cars behind me almost crashed also . this is the worst road i have seen . i am 55 with many years of experience .

    Reply
    • Hello Nick and thank you for connecting with us and sharing your concern. We have shared your comment forward with the area manager.

      Reply
    • Hello again Nick,

      The acceleration lane southbound from Shawnigan Lake Rd. onto the highway is of a standard length and design, however we continuously monitor the performance of our highway infrastructure and the operation of this acceleration lane is something that we have been watching. We are actively looking at possible adjustments at this location in conjunction with future Malahat improvement projects.

      Reply
  2. Is there a possibility of opening the railway for transit? An effective rail system would reduce considerable volumes of traffic passing over the malahat. The improvements of Malahat drive are due and sufficient for road safety, however the volumes are going to compound over the years and this corridor is obviously limited to its capacity for the future. We already have an existing rail system in place, however it has never been implemented in an effective way for commuters.

    Thanks for your time and consideration

    Reply
    • Hi Alex,

      Good question, thanks for connecting with us about it. We realize that rail is an important piece of the infrastructure puzzle, and we are looking into ways we can revitalize the E&N railway on Vancouver Island. If you would like to read more about our ten year plan for rail infrastructure, here is the link to our ten year transportation plan: BC on the Move. Hope that this helps!

      Reply
  3. I tried turning left off Whittaker Road, (Malahat) onto the Trans Canada Highway, and I could not see the traffic approaching from the south due to the concrete meridians installed on the new highway. I think this is now a very dangerous intersection and I hope someone will look into it and have it improved before an accident happens here. Someone should have thought about installing a merge lane when traffic is heading North as well.

    Reply
  4. I would like to know how increasing the merge lanes on the Southbound traffic end of the highway, is going to improve the safety of the residents of the Whittaker Road/Spectacle Lake area? I think it is great that there is a barrier going North and on our turning lane now but, this is actually impeding our visibility when we want to make a left turn to go North. The other night, I needed to drive North to Duncan at 5:45 pm, it was raining and pitch black outside. I could barely see North bound traffic coming because the barrier from our turning lane impeded my vision, as it is on a hill. If it wasn’t for the lights on people’s vehicles coming up the hill, I would never have been able to see traffic coming. Before the construction, it was hard at times to make a left hand turn to go North from Whittaker Rd. We had to wait for 1 lane of South bound traffic to pass as well as 2 lanes of traffic merging into 1 lane at our intersection going Northbound. This was dicey at the best of times but manageable. Going South to Victoria, we had to wait for the traffic to pass which is fine because it is only 1 lane of traffic.
    Now, with the increased merge lane past our turn off where we have to turn onto the highway, this is going to cause more headaches than ever; as well as, I feel, it is an accident waiting to happen. I don’t know why someone would design a merge lane on a hill, as that is what it is now! I have seen many ignorant drivers who try to beat the other car just to get ahead of them. Having the merge lane on a hill is just going to increase the aggressive drivers out there who are trying to beat that one extra car that is actually doing the posted speed limit, or that 18 wheeler who is trying to merge. Now all of that traffic and that 18 wheeler that is coming down the hill will be trying to slow down, and merge safely before coming down to the South Shawnigan Lake turn-off which, is just at our turn off! Now factor in some rain, fog, and darkness at early morning/nighttime hours,(6:30 am-7:30am and 5:00 pm on) when everyone is trying to get to work in the morning or go out for dinner, get groceries in Mill Bay at the end of the day, etc; that is when the real problem is going to happen. We can not and will not be able to get out safely without getting into an accident. Right now, the posted signs are at 60 for construction zone, most people are not even obeying those signs and it is hard to get out. Just wait until it goes back up to the 80 zone! I understand that you feel that increasing the merge lane by 1km going North bound will help increase safety and I think the barriers are wonderful I do think that will help alot. But increasing the South bound merge lane is not going to help at all. It was fine the way it was before, traffic merged at the Look-off area long before Whittaker road intersection. Increasing this merge right at the turn-off intersection is just pure insanity. You cannot have traffic merging on a hill as well as, at an intersection. This is actually going to cause more motorists to speed up ahead to beat the merging traffic and then they will already be at an increased speed going down a hill and then realize that they need to slow down because they couldn’t see that the traffic below them was already going slower. Plus, there is the traffic from South Shawnigan Lake turn-off trying to make a left hand turn to go North or even traffic trying to merge to go South. I understand that you felt there was no need to consult the residents of Spectacle Lake/Whittaker Rd but, after seeing the way the highway has now been designed I am truly upset. The least you could have done was consult the local fire department in our area which is the one who responds to every accident that occurs in this area. I don’t know how I can safely make a left hand turn now to go to Mill Bay and to take my children to soccer practice in Duncan on Tues/Thurs nights when I now have to cross 4 lanes of traffic in order to go North in the dark and rainy conditions. As well as come summer time when this highway is so busy on the best of days. Please reconsider having this merge lane past our intersection and move it back to where it was previously or just before our intersection. Once the summer comes, our intersection gets very busy with campers, and other tourists that don’t know the area as they are looking for a place to cool off on a hot summer day down at our lake. These people don’t realize how fast oncoming traffic is when they are leaving this area and this is going to make it so much harder for these vehicles to make a left turn to go North. Plus, we will never be able to turn onto the highway to go Southbound after a long weekend in the afternoon based on the current configuration. We should not have to change the times when we want to leave our house to do anything based on the amount of traffic that is on the road.
    If you could please get your construction people or whoever is in charge of this project to try to make various turns going North from our road and try to merge onto the highway to go Southbound at peak hours such as 6:45 am-7:15 and at the end of the day 5:00-6:00(turning Left) in non-highway marked vehicles then perhaps they may see the frustration that is happening with all of the residents here. Plus, please take into consideration some of the slower vehicles that may be trying to turn and factor those into the current design.
    Thank-you
    Deborah Jorginson

    Reply
    • Hi Deborah,

      Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention. Now that the barrier has been placed, we have reviewed the available site distance again to the south, for left turning vehicles leaving Whitaker, and have confirmed it meets required engineering standards for new highway construction in Canada. It is however understood that given the traffic volumes on Hwy 1, that this movement can be difficult during peak volume periods. Although the required site distance is available at this intersection, during periods of heavy hwy volume, you may want to consider alternate means of heading north, by either a) turning southbound on the hwy at Whitaker, and U-turning at the new Shawnigan Lake Rd facility in order to make that northbound left movement at that intersection (this would provide even longer available site distance), or b) travelling south to the Malahat village gas station area and utilizing the median left turn lane to turn into the frontage rd area before heading northbound via the acceleration lane north of the hotel (this would separate out the movements for crossing the northbound and southbound lanes of traffic, meaning you don’t have to wait for a gap in both directions of heavy traffic at the same moment, as you need to do at Whitaker and Shawnigan to turn left).

      The locations of both northbound and southbound merge points were moved further along the hwy to allow the merges to occur beyond the curves and tops of steep grades. This allows for the 20,000+ average daily users of the hwy passing through the corridor to see and prepare for the merge in advance, as well as allow slower moving larger vehicles (typically transport trucks) the ability to regain lost speed from the uphill ascents, so that they can then merge closer to normal hwy operating speeds. Prior to these improvements, that differential in speed between the two merging lanes created a significant safety issue and further contributed to those “aggressive drivers” merging at the last possible moment.

      Turning southbound out of Whitaker Rd still requires a driver to yield and wait for a gap in southbound traffic. If a gap existed in all southbound traffic before construction, that same gap in theory would still be available under the current conditions, as the same overall southbound hwy volumes that were previously in one lane, are now in two lanes. In the occasional instances when southbound traffic is all traveling in the inside fast lane, this would offer the added ability for a right turning vehicle to pull into the empty shoulder slow lane, then accelerate and merge into the rest of hwy traffic south of Whitaker Rd.

      As with all highways within the province, we will continue to monitor the safety of this section of the Malahat corridor. We believe these improvements will go a long way in decreasing the number and severity of accidents that have occurred in this area. We hope that this helps!

      Reply
  5. Hi Jess,

    Sorry to hear your frustration, and we do thank you for your patience. We are sharing your feedback with the project manager for follow up.

    Reply
    • Hi Jess –
      We are assuming that you are referring to Holker Place, if this is the case, the two new U-turn facilities will be operational in the coming couple weeks.If that is not the case, let us know and we will help you identify where u turns are available to you. Thanks for your continued patience!

      Reply
      • Yes I was referring to holker place. It’s pretty ridiculous uturn routes aren’t available yet considering I have to turn around all the way at the underpass in bamberton. U turn routes should of been done before blocking our original way of crossing the highway, I feel the previous intersection was safer .people are already cutting around the cement island that was placed which is super dangerous ! with holker place actually being such a busy road ( with fish and games , residents ) I thought we were actually going to benefit from this intersection being improved. instead we got multiple machines using our driveway EVERYDAY because the workers can’t take the time to go a little further down the road, flaggers shaking their heads at me because I am LEGALLY trying to cross the highway the way I did before this all started . sorry for the rant but this improvement has been a nightmare. did anyone think of having more traffic enforcements on the Malahat instead of helping people crash safer ?

        Reply
  6. Good Evening,
    I find it intolerable to have to spend yet another period of months adding a considerable period of time per day to my commute. The last time there were improvements to this ridiculous road we had appalling delays, and an amorphous undetermined completion date. I see this completion date is simiiar – some mythical time in Spring 2015. And so it starts again.
    When there is no construction, my commute time is almost exactly one hour. Tonight it was one hour and forty minutes. The traffic stalled well below the Malahat village, and began as far back as the old Dutch Latch site.
    And this is not the first time since this Phase Two has begun.
    At no time is there any evidence of the contractor monitoring these delays. In fact, I would like to see the planning part of this contract very much, especially as it pertains to traffic flow and control. Can I have a copy of this, please?
    I feel sorry for each and every one of the thousands of people that are forced to use this dreadful road every day.
    You claim safety improvements, but do not include an egress lane with a right hand merge, for vehicles turing north off Shawnigan Lake Rd. Safety improvements in my mind would certainly include lightsas well, as it is dark as pitch up there in the winter. Whatever i done, it is glaringly clear that without a solid plan for the future this road will always be dangerous and a problem as long as it remains undivided and single lane.
    And finally, it is the stop-gap measures that are taken continually regarding this road that most upset me. Does no one have a vision for the future? That the volume of traffic that uses it has outgrown it long ago has been known for a number of years. It’s time for some major infrastructure spending on the Island for once. How about some lightrail from Colwood for a start? With the second phase going to Shawnigan Lake?
    Victoria is our capital city, and Islanders already feel vilified and alienated enough with things like Translink and BC Ferries cutbacks. There’s more to this province than the Lower Mainland you know.

    Reply
    • Hi Erin,

      Thank you for connecting with us here and please accept our apologies for your frustration and inconvenience. We continue to try to minimize traffic delays wherever possible. We have shared your concerns forward with the project manager, so please stay tuned for more information.

      Reply
    • Hello again Erin,

      Once again, we apologize for the delay you experienced. We spoke with the project manager who had this to share with you: Last night was one of only a relative few times throughout this past summer where delays exceeded our committed time limits. We are committed to completing the work by Spring 2015. Travel times are being monitored on the Malahat corridor 24/7 via automated devices and the ministry and contractors continuously monitor this data and adjust the work accordingly, whenever possible to mitigate delays. Last night travel times peaked at a 25 minute delay (beyond our acceptable thresholds for that time of day). The reason for the delay was a unique requirement to adjust highway lanes near the new Holker Place intersection while they completed the paving of that side of the road adjacent to the highway. Given the weather window available to pave, no ideal alternative was available at that time to adjust works to mitigate the delays, unfortunately resulting in the delays experienced.

      In order to mitigate delays, works are often needed to be postponed and/or broken down into shorter working periods. Therefore, mitigating delays often comes with the effect of requiring a longer construction window. In order to have a shorter construction window, works need to be occurring as often/frequent as possible without slowdowns or stoppages in work to ensure maximum efficiencies, and therefore this often results in working during peak travel times, and thus in delays. It is a balancing act to mitigate delays, at the same time as completing construction in as fast a time frame as possible. With regards to our long term planning, we encourage you to have your say in shaping our next ten year transportation plan ( http://engage.gov.bc.ca/transportationplan/ ).

      We hope that this helps with your concerns, if you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.

      Reply
  7. How is making a four lane Rd. with no traffic lights at critical intersections safer? You will have people wanting to go North on the highway from S Shawnigan Lake Rd. and Spectacle Lake who to do so will have to cross 2 lanes of traffic. I someone is pulling a trailer this will be impossible to do. It is time that this area had an over pass to access S Shawnigan and Spectacle Lake. Also at the cabins since there is no barrier I have witnessed numerous near misses because of people stopping to turn left into the cabins. The Motor Vehicle Act states that a double yellow line can be crossed to enter a driveway but must be done without impeding traffic. Stopping on a highway such as the Malahat to turn left in a corner is very dangerous and should be addressed.

    Reply
    • Hi again Frank,

      The primary focus of the current work is to reduce cross over head on incidents by placing a median barrier. A driver wanting to turn north out of these roads does have the option to turn south and use the U-turn facility at the village to head north (breaking the movement of heading north into two separate operations – allowing for easier turning movements, especially with larger vehicles). Ministry staff are continuing to review the corridor for opportunities to improve safety, and the Village area “at the cabins” is actively being reviewed. Long term strategy discussions have included an overpass/underpass of some form, but as interchanges are very costly – this was deemed not fiscally possible at this time.

      Reply
  8. I was wondering if it had been considered to join South Shawnigan Lk Rd with Whittaker Rd to share a northbound overpass. They could each still have their own respective southbound merge lanes, but an access road parallel to the hiway could be used to join and route northbound traffic from both roads to an overpass, elliminating the need for left turns accross traffic.
    I understand overpasses are expensive, but this would certainly be the safest approach, and wondering if that was proposed or considered?

    Reply
    • Hi Dave,
      Thanks for your suggestions. In short, yes – we have been thinking along the same lines as you, considering how to best connect the Whittaker area to Shawnigan Lake Road and how they could both be accessed by a better combined access than they each have today. Unfortunately, although an interchange at this location has been considered and proposed it was determined to be financially unfeasible at this time. It will likely be considered again in the future as we do like to plan ahead so that any interim steps will fit with a larger plan. Hope that this helps!

      Reply
  9. I noticed that there is “night paving” scheduled for August 7 & 8. Malahat traffic increases on Thursdays & Fridays every week in the summer. Was this taken into consideration before the paving was scheduled? Would it not have made more sense to schedule this on a Monday & Tuesday, regardless of any delays it would have caused the project? After all, it’s only a couple of days and last years project didn’t finish anywhere near the announced dates. Also, at the start go the project it was announced that traffic would not be stopped from Friday afternoons to Monday mornings. How will this work? Some of us still haven’t forgotten the ridiculously long commute last year when paving was scheduled on a Friday.

    Reply
    • Hi Kristin,

      Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I have contacted the project manager and have been informed that routine spot patching is planned and it will occur only on the northbound side of the road, for about 100 metres, near Goldstream. Work will take place from around midnight tonight (Thursday) to 5 a.m., tomorrow (Friday). A minimum of one lane will be open in either direction throughout that time. This should cause only minor delays. DriveBC is being updated to reflect this information.

      Reply
  10. I drive the Malahat daily for work and though I respect the 60km construction zone during construction hours, many times I will be driving home well after construction has wrapped up for the day. I was under the understanding the construction speed signs should be covered when there is no current construction underway, however this is not the case.

    I risk a speeding ticket if I don’t follow the signs, however it is unsafe to drive at 60km at night, when traffic is driving well over this speed.

    Reply
    • Hi again Cory. Just to clarify – the sign you see is the sign in effect. Sometimes a speed limit sign will be covered when there is no active work going on but typically in BC, when a construction sign is posted, that speed limit does not stop when the workers go home for the night, it remains in effect around the clock. This is because dangers (such as drop offs, loose surface and construction machinery) still exist for motorists travelling through the work zone. Also, because some construction projects include re-alignment or other reconfiguration of regular traffic patterns, it is a good idea to travel slowly in the work zone in order to be prepared for new or unusual routes. Hope that this helps!

      Reply
  11. If I am reading this correctly I will not be able to turn left onto Whittaker Road from the northbound lane just past the South Shawnigan Lake turn off. Yet there are no barriers around the corner at the Malahat gas station. I will now have to utilize a turn around and cross over both lanes of traffic. Who thought thiabwas a good idea?

    Reply
    • Hello K,

      We shared your concern with the project manager and they let us know that Whitaker Rd movements will all still be possible post construction (i.e., the northbound left turn into Whitaker will still remain with a left turn lane). The intersection itself is being realigned a bit further south. The left turn out of Whitaker will also remain. Holker becomes a fully channelized right in, right out intersection (as it is currently signed) located directly across from the new Whitaker Rd alignment. As with all major highway projects, the ministry looked at the existing intersections to ensure they are up to current safety and engineering standards and it was determined this work will improve safety and visibility for motorists approaching the highway and residents accessing the highway. Hope that this helps!

      Reply
      • I appreciate the addition of a median and extra passing lane but I don’t feel good about the Whittaker Road intersection improvement at all.

        I don’t see how moving Whitaker Road into the middle of a double merge section (both existing north and new south) will help those turning left out of Whittaker. To truly make this intersection safer a protected T intersection should be built to help left turns out of Whitaker. This new layout will actually make left turns more challenging with a median affecting the sight-lines looking right and two lanes merging to one coming from the left.

        Why was there no public consultation on this project with local residents?

        Reply
        • Hi Christian,

          We spoke with the project manager and here is his response.

          The residents of Whittaker Road were not consulted about this work, as it will not result in any loss of turning movements in or out of Whitaker Rd. The new configuration brings the intersection up to current engineering standards including required site lines. The construction of a Protected T style intersection was reviewed and determined to not be warranted at this time. Should you have any further questions, our Ministry Project Manager, Darren Englund Darren.Englund@gov.bc.ca, would be happy to discuss.

          Reply
  12. I live in Shawnigan Lake and work in Victoria. Being a long time user of the highway, I appreciate the government’s efforts to continue improvements to the Malahat. And I also appreciate the efforts to minimize stoppages to traffic during peak commuting times this time. However, I do have a request to make this much more tolerable to us Shawinigan Lake residents.

    For the past couple of days after 6pm there have been traffic stoppages going north right at the south Shawnigan turn-off. For traffic control they have funnelled the northbound traffic into one lane and stopped all traffic for periods of time. Given that the construction is occurring north of the south Shawnigan turn-off, I would strongly request that they allow traffic destined for Shawnigan Lake through the south Shawnigan turn-off to continue in the left lane and only stop the other northbound traffic in the right lane. This would eliminate the Shawnigan Lake bound traffic from having to stop and be delayed unnecessarily.

    Reply
    • Hi Dave. Thanks for connecting. By now, you’ve received a response to your email from project manager Darren Englund. We realize others may be wondering the same thing, so we’ve copied Darren’s explanation here:

      “This has been brought up before and is considered each time we undertake work near Shawnigan Lake Rd requiring full stoppages. However, relative to these past couple days of work, as they are occurring through the night, we require light stands to be setup to illuminate the flag person. As such, the flaggers do not move along the site during the night works, although the equipment working is moving all along the project length. The flaggers stay in the same location all night stopping traffic in the same location for this lighting reason.

      The location chosen south of Shawnigan Lake Rd offers the best site distance to the stoppage and lane merge, as well as the best grade to allow stopped highway traffic (larger vehicles) to accelerate on before reaching the steeper grade north of Shawnigan. This results in reduced delay times for the majority of northbound highway traffic. The northbound lanes are required to be merged into one lane before a flagger is allowed to stop traffic. If the stoppage location was moved north, under the current tree falling operations, the closest that stop point could be located would be right adjacent the middle of the left turn lane into Shawnigan Lake Rd. As soon as a dozen or so highway vehicles came to a stop, they would be blocking the left turn lane into Shawnigan, essentially creating the same traffic issue that you’ve raised.

      Also, in regards to your comment about allowing the left lane to be used to let traffic continue on and turn left at Shawnigan, we are not able to allow a lane of traffic to pass a flagger during a closure for safety reasons, the reason being that a driver may pass the flagger and, rather than turning left into Shawnigan, just continue north along the highway with the flaggers being unaware. This puts both that vehicle and all the crew working in danger. Currently, the reason for the stoppages is so trees can be felled adjacent the highway. To avoid risk to public, traffic is stopped while the trees come down.

      I will bring this request up with our project team again and ensure it is considered whenever it is reasonable to do so, as we are, and will continue to be, striving to reduce traffic impacts wherever possible.”

      Reply
  13. Why extend the south bound passing lane 1km? So you will then have a longer stretch for the hurry-up-and-wait idiots to accelerate **downhill** then merging a few hundered metres before vehicles from Shawnigan Lake rd. merge…?!? Good thing you have the new divider S. of Shawnigan Lake road, as it will be used often. Expect many more violent rear-enders of Shawnigan Lake mergers who don’t get up to the posted+30km/h speeds of the hurry-up-and-wait idiots who have just passed everyone on the just more-NASCARed NASCAR corner.

    Reply
  14. Hello,

    How will cycling conditions on the Malahat be improved through this project? As you’re likely aware conditions in the past have been poor – narrow shoulders, poorly installed rumble strips and unswept debris.

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Peter,

      We sent the Project Manager on the Malahat Safety Improvement project your question and here is what they had to say:

      “During construction of Phase 2 of the Malahat Safety Improvement Project, accommodation of cyclists is required and our contractor is to clear any debris from the hwy travelled surfaces, including where cyclists ride through the construction area. One major benefit we are bringing to this current section of the Malahat is consistent paved shoulder widths. Where there are two lanes in the same direction of travel, we will be implementing 2.0m wide paved shoulders. Where only one lane in the direction of travel, the shoulder widths will be 2.5m. Adjacent auxiliary lanes like accel and decel lanes, the shoulder width will be 1.5m paved. Most shoulder areas within this section of the Malahat will have roadside concrete barriers adjacent. Also, our shoulder rumble strips are installed to standard across the province.”

      Hope this helps. Thanks for taking the time to connect with us.

      Reply