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  • Gayle Baker

Roads 101: Welcoming MoTI and Emcon

August 25

Twenty joined this ASK Salt Spring gathering to welcome Owen Page, our Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) Area Manager, and Andrew Gaetz, Emcon (our roads maintenance contractor) Operations Manager. After our Territorial Acknowledgement, both Andrew and Owen told us that they were thrilled to be with us and, according to Owen, this was the very best part of his job.

Andrew’s span of responsibility is the entire south Vancouver Island from Chemainus south and including all the Gulf Islands. Owen’s scope of responsibility is the CRD on Vancouver Island as well as Salt Spring, Saturna, and Piers Islands. Each with different sets of responsibilities, we are lucky that they speak to one another on a regular basis, coordinating projects as well as emergency responses. Despite the many communities they both serve, they expend a great deal of energy on Salt Spring, a credit to them as well as our involvement and advocacy efforts.


Concerning our soon-to-be-posted 30 km/h speed limit in Ganges, we learned from Owen that MoTI engineers were coming to Salt Spring this Tuesday to discuss boundaries of this limit and placement of signs alerting drivers of this speed reduction. Although clarity will be gained by this Tuesday visit by MoTI engineers, it is believed that this speed reduction will end near the intersection of Upper and Lower Ganges Roads. While a number of participants spoke with passion about the need to extend this speed reduction at least to Country Grocer and possibly even to the Brinkworthy senior community, Owen’s counsel was to address extending it later rather than now. We learned that:

  1. It is extremely unusual for MoTI to reduce speed limits anywhere on provincial roads except at parks and elementary schools. Gaining this reduction for our village is unique and, according to Owen, the result of tenacious local advocacy as well as the political will to make it happen.

  2. Were we to demand extension of this reduced speed area, it would require another potentially-long approval process, delaying the implementation of our village speed reduction for many months at best.

  3. Concerning a participant’s question about creating 30 km/h Senior Zones, Owen told us that this would be a matter for review by the province’s Senior Traffic Engineers.


Owen suggested that we celebrate this unique victory while also beginning to advocate for reduced speed limits along our major roads - presumably to include Lower Ganges Road between Country Grocer and the Harbour. We will be greatly-helped in this advocacy effort by the recently-released MoTI Salt Spring Cycling Safety Study (https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/driving-and-transportation/reports-and-reference/reports-and-studies/vancouver-island-south-coast/2023-04-21_salt_spring_island_cycling_safety_review.pdf) that recommended speed reductions along our major roads.


A participant spoke with passion about our dangerous village crosswalks. Noted as a concern in the Ganges Active Transportation Network Plan (https://www.crd.bc.ca/docs/default-source/crd-document-library/plans-reports/planning-development/salt-spring-island-active-transportation-network-plan.pdf)), it is likely that the LCC will soon consider requesting MoTI to evaluate our Ganges crosswalks and modify as needed.


Noting that traditional roundabouts take a great deal of space as well as posing a danger to cyclists and pedestrians, a participant asked Owen to look at the new models being used in the Netherlands (https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2015/10/13/explaining-the-dutch-roundabout-abroad/) that require far less space and separate cyclists and pedestrians. While reminding us that MoTI was not traditionally eager to experiment, Owen promised to get information about these modern roundabouts to his managers for consideration. This roundabout question was particularly-relevant as the Salt Spring Cycling Safety Study suggested consideration of a roundabout adjacent to the Ganges firehall, a recommendation also mentioned in the Ganges Active Transportation Network Plan (both cited above.)


A participant asked how we would get bike counters (https://www.eco-counter.com/)) on Ganges Hill. We learned that this would need to be an LCC-initiative as it is not something MoTI would do. To proceed, the LCC would need to recommend applying for a MoTI permit or Licence of Occupation and would need to purchase, install, and maintain this bike counter. We learned from Emcon that such a counter would be added after construction. When asked whether Emcon could install it for CRD if things progressed this far, we learned the Emcon does not do electrical. Are there solar-powered bike counters, perchance? While a bit more complicated than anticipated, this participant may come to the LCC to request an exploration of installing bike counters.

When a participant stated that it was her conclusion that stop signs at crosswalks were safer than flashing lights, we were reminded by Owen that stop signs at each Ganges crosswalk would significantly-impede the flow of traffic and may not be supported by MoTI.


Andrew appreciated acknowledgement from a participant who lauded Emcon for the repaving of Cushion Lake Road. He was asked how decisions are made about repaving projects. He replied that he is in constant communications with his Salt Spring team and draws his priorities from their feedback (often based on stretches with increasing potholes) as well as usage statistics and school bus routes. When a participant related the high maintenance costs for our buses due, in her opinion, to rough roads, it was suggested that Andrew might want to also reach out to our local transit operators for their opinions about stretches of road most in need of work.


When asked if we could be helpful determining these priorities, Andrew replied that road work recommendations from the LCC could be very helpful. In light of the proposed affordable housing developments along Drake road, a participant suggested Andrew seriously-consider repaving Drake Road as a high priority for next year.


Andrew told us that about half of his budget (approximately $15 million per year for the entire Capital Regional District as well as the Emcon portion of the Cowichan Valley Regional District - Shawnigan Lake to Crofton) is allocated for unplanned expenditures, like snow removal, as one example. The other half is allocated to planned maintenance like culvert replacement and small repaving projects.


We learned that a team from of Lafrentz, (https://lafrentz.ca/), our painting contractor, came recently to thermoplastic (https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/materials-science/thermoplastics) our crosswalks. Unfortunately, they left, unable to do it. They found that our crosswalks had been painted in the past, and they could not thermoplastic over this paint. Owen has hired another company to paint our crosswalks this season. Unfortunately, paint will have to be used, less long-lasting than thermoplastic.


We also learned that both the centre and fog lines of our major roads between ferry terminals as well as some others will be painted this season. As most know,, with the BC ban of oil -based paints, this line painting, though enthusiastically welcomed, will need to be done again in a season or so.


Seeking a longer-lasting demarkation of our centre lines, a participant asked about cat’s eyes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat's_eye_(road)). We learned that they are embedded glass and can only be placed in asphalt that is in good condition. And, while not extraordinarily-expensive ( just over $4), installation is expensive, requiring a machine from Vancouver Islands to install them. Micro-grooving, another option for longer lasting centre lines, also requires asphalt in good condition. While not appropriate for most of our roads, it was asked whether either cat’s eyes or micro-grooving could be considered for the Ganges Hill project. Stay tuned. . . .


Concerning sweeping, we learned that Emcon is only required to sweep our streets once a year. Andrew believes that it should be done more often and has gone to great lengths to try to sweep more frequently. A new sweeper has just been purchased for use on Vancouver Island. While it can be brought to Salt Spring, unfortunately, in addition to the transport, it costs about $300/hr to operate. (On Vancouver Island, on a wide open road in good condition, approximately 11 km can be done in an 8-hour shift.) While committed to try to sweep our streets more often, Andrew reminded us that it is a balance, and anything he spends over his required once-a-year sweeping must be taken from other also-pressing maintenance needs.


Owen and Andrew were asked how more funding could allocated for more frequent painting as well as to Emcon for road sweeping. A relatively small amount of money in the MoTI budget, it was this participant’s view that these expenditure are absolutely necessary for the safety of cyclists.


It was concluded getting additional funding for more frequent painting and sweeping requires us to advocate strongly with Minister Rob Fleming to fund these relatively-inexpensive investments to increase the safety of our cycling community.


While the Salt Spring IslandsCycling Review indicated that Vesuvius Bay Road was more heavily-travelled than Fulford-Ganges Road, it is likely that this is a result of the placement of the counter near Cushion Lake Road. Owen has just completed a count of cars on Fulford-Ganges Road and told us that during the summer season, this road has approximately 75,000 vehicles a week, 10,000 per day.


Clearly a very heavily traveled road, Owen gave us an update on the long-awaited Ganges Hill project: While Minister Rob Fleming announced on June 2 at ASK Salt Spring that he expected detailed designs by the end of June, MoTI is still awaiting them. We learned from Owen that these designs are now expected within the next few weeks. With these designs, adjacent property owners will be contacted to give them information as well as negotiating the acquisition of narrow strips of land where necessary. While Owen hopes that we will see some progress in 2023 - like moving BC Hydro poles - he told us that the majority of the work will be done in 2024.


Drainage issues and the need to culvert the ditches has complicated this project as well as adding significantly higher costs. Concerning culverts, a participant asked whether these culverts would be regularly-cleaned as well as having the capacity to filter out the environmentally-harmful material like oils and metals. Owen promised to get more information about the planned culverts on Ganges Hill.


With 1.2 metre bike lanes on both sides, a participant asked how we can stop vehicle owners from parking along these lanes. While some demarkation - like reflectors or even bollards - seemed to make some sense, Andrew reminded us that maintenance and snow removal would be significantly complicated. The only solution Owen and Andrew could see to create a demarkation to stop parking is for the LCC to take a Licence of Occupation for these bike lanes, maintaining and taking liability for them.


As 1:00 had arrived, we lauded both Andrew and Owen for their willingness - and even eagerness - to listen to us express our concerns, give us the answers we need to better understand, and address those concerns whenever possible. Clearly among the Good Guys who work so hard to make Salt Spring the best it can be, we all gave our special guests our heartfelt appreciation for the work they do for us. (Thank-you Owen and Andrew!)


Please join us this Friday, September 1, 11-1, in the SIMS (former Middle School) courtyard to welcome our Island Pathways (https://www.islandpathways.ca/) volunteers: Bob MacKie, President, Luke Campbell, Cycling, and Peter Meyer, Pathways.


What would you like to ask them?

Please join us this Friday, September 1, 11-1, in the SIMS Courtyard!


Big News:

ASK Salt Spring now has ongoing funding! A heartfelt THANK-YOU to the Institute for Sustainability, Education, and Action (I-SEA) and its Executive Director, Peter Allen !!!


***New fundraising option***

You can now give the Return It change you earn from your bottles to ASK Salt Spring: Account #230.

Any question, anytime: ask@asksaltspring.com


Want to see reports from all the ASK Salt Spring gatherings,

monthly schedule of upcoming gatherings?

asksaltspring.com. Want to listen to interviews of our special guests?ASK Salt Spring Answered


Want to help? ASK Salt Spring now has a Save-a-Tape box at Country Grocer.

We love your receipts! Remember: #15


Our Partners. . . .

Institute for Sustainability, Education, and Action (I-SEA), Country Grocer through Save-a-Tape and Gift Cards and Island Savings’ Simple Generosity grant.

A heartfelt Thank-You!



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