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  • Gayle Baker

Want to Learn More About Salt Spring's Roads? Owen Page, MoTi Area Manager, Offers Answers as Well as Listening

April 19

Fifteen joined us for all or part of our time together at this ASK Salt Spring gathering that welcomed our Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) Area Manager Owen Page. After our Territorial Acknowledgement, we asked Owen what excites and delights him. Personally, he was looking forward to watching a great basketball playoff while enjoying a beer that evening.

Professionally, he loves spending time in the communities for which he is responsible, always listening, learning, and seeking the best use of the resources he has been allocated. Later ,when asked if the number of Salt Spring emails were a bit overwhelming, he responded a resounding No. He appreciates hearing our suggestions. He is able to address some. Others he routes to the correct managers, keeping track and advocating for them, as appropriate.

When asked to detail his area of responsibility, we learned that, although the Gulf Islands are split between three Area Managers, leaving Owen only Salt Spring and Saturna Islands, his Vancouver Island responsibility encompasses the entire CRD from Point Renfrew south. Working closely with Emcon, the MoTI contractor responsible for our road maintenance, Owen’s responsibilities rest largely with overseeing operations and maintenance. While in the information loop, large projects, like Ganges Hill, are managed by other departments.

Owen was asked why the decision to reduce our Ganges speed limit to 30kmh did not extend to also include Country Grocer and Brinkworthy. We learned that, while the lowering of the limit may have been a political decision, its extent was an engineering decision, designating Rainbow to Seaview as our high density, urban corridor.

While we could ask for another engineering study to extend this lowered spreed limit, Owen told us that it would be difficult battle. He reminded us that our 30 kmh victory was unique, highly unusual, and quite unexpected. Did you know that MoTI maintains a minimum speed limit of 50 kmh on ALL its provincial roads with the exception of roads at elementary schools and playgrounds? While Owen recognizes the years of work many put into getting MoTI to make this exception, he believes that the political work of our MLA Adam Olsen was a significant deciding factor in this unexpected decision.

When a participant told us that she was working with MLA Adam Olsen to get a 30 kmh Senior Zone designation, Owen reminded us that this would have to be a province-wide decision, presumably far beyond his pay grade :).

While extending our hard-won 30 kmh Ganges speed limit may be challenging, Owen is working hard to get the 80 kmh Fulford-Ganges limit reduced. While this proposed reduction will also need an engineering study, Owen has requested it be undertaken, confident that the pavement and shoulder conditions of Fulford-Ganges do not warrant its current 80 kmh speed limit.

Owen’s conclusion is also supported by the recent MoTI-study, Salt Spring Island Cycling Safety Review. ( This study also concluded that Fulford-Ganges speed limits were excessive.

A participant told us about a similar 2015 safety review after a three-year old child was killed on Fulford-Ganges in 2013 ( In her opinion, this study was flawed because an SUV was used to assess comfort journeying along Fulford-Ganges Road. She suggested that the next time comfort is assessed, do it on a bicycle (or, my note: on one of our BC Transit buses).

Fulford-Ganges came up later in our discussion with good news, mostly. . . . The tender for Ganges Hill, Seaview to Cranberry, will be released later this spring with construction expected to begin this summer. Long-awaited, this is good news. . . but, of course, the next question was What about delays? Drivers catching the Fulford ferry would be wise to plan their time with these unavoidable delays in mind.

While this is not Owen’s project, he is aware of the extensive planning currently underway to minimize delays. This team is clear about the unsuitability of Cushion Lake Road as the major detour route for large trucks. As a result, the plan is the keep one Fulford-Ganges lane open, allowing commercial vehicles and cyclists to proceed while other vehicles will be routed via the Beaver Point-Cusheon Lake alternative.

And, construction on Blackburn Bridge will also begin this summer, with a similar rerouting plan! While this is all good news, with important, and very expensive projects (estimated very roughly in the range of $30 million for them) finally getting done, we are all going to need to plan ahead, expect delays, and replace that natural frustration with a smile.

We also learned that, in addition to these large projects, Salt Spring is getting a number of other projects completed this year, among them some remaining Isabella Point Road flood repairs and the Vesuvius Bay Road slide at Tripp Road.

Remember how we keep complaining that things don’t get done? Well, Salt Spring, - Hang on to your hat! It is slated to be a wild summer filled with road projects.

A participant noted that No Parking signs along a Vesuvius had the unintended consequence of forcing drivers to park on two sides of another street, making it difficult for cars to proceed and impossible for emergency vehicles to pass. While unfortunate, Owen noted that worrisome erosion below had caused MoTI to make it illegal to park along this stretch until it has been checked by a geotech engineer. Owen did promise to continue this conversation with this concerned Vesuvius resident to see if parking solutions could be found before summer when even more will want to park near the beach at Vesuvius.

Owen was asked about ditch maintenance (an Emcon responsibility). This participant questioned whether there were standards for ditch depth and whether these standards were being maintained. We learned from Owen that there are stormwater management standards for ditch depth that developers must follow during construction. Over the years, though, ditches get filled in with plant growth and debris. Also, adjacent properties can change significantly, like being clearcut, resulting in water flow that far exceeds the intended capacity of the existing ditch. While worrisome, Owen told us that, in general, MoTI’s main interest is not maintaining ditches to protect adjacent properties but to maintain these ditches so that roads are not flooded and damaged.

Many would agree that the shoulders and edges of our roads are among our biggest road problems. We hear often that more money must be allocated by the province to fund Emcon to sweep more than once a year. Did you know that, according to a participant, in 2012 UBCM passed a resolution that was accepted by MoTI to allocate more funding to road sweeping. Did this happen? she asked. No one as this ASK Salt Spring gathering knew. Anyone have this answer?

What few of us realized is that even more than sweeping is needed: Dirt and debris gathers at the edge of our roads. Not removable by mere sweeping, this buildup of debris soon becomes a solid berm, adding even more danger to active transportation users.

When we learned that MoTI had decided to buy the property at Tripp and Vesuvius Bay Roads as the most practical way to fix the slippage of Vesuvius Bay Road, a participant asked how this cost is accessed. She wondered if the owners had any choice or whether the province determined the price. We learned from Owen that a third party assesses purchase prices and that mediation is available if price negotiations stall.

With this question, the conversation veered to the privately-owned section of Beddis Road. While snow removal is still done along that stretch, we learned that MoTI has no plans to maintain this privately-owned section, confident that maintenance is the owner’s responsibility.

While Beddis Road is the most visible private/public road conflict, Salt Spring is a mishmash of overlapping roads and private property. A participant told us about the 1862 Road Act which, she maintained, holds precedence over more recent Motor Vehicle Acts. A key element of this act requires all landowners to give a 66’ road right of way. This participant wondered why we do not impose this old, but still in force, law.

As our time together was drawing to a close, it was noted that our frustration with MoTI ownership of our roads could be easily solved were we to incorporate. While a number smiled with a Yes, others recalled road cost fears that played a large part in the defeat of the mot recent 2017 Incorporation initiative. One noted that it took 15 Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to get the cost of emergency repairs and, even then, that information was not included in the 2017 Incorporation Report.

While there were clearly differing opinions, there seemed to be agreement that, had the province agreed to keep ownership maintenance of major roads leading to our three ferry terminals, the vote could have been different. Even though the province repeatedly refused to consider retaining these major roads, it is clear that the province would still like Salt Spring to incorporate, offloading the costs as well as the headaches we create as one of the largest unincorporated BC communities and certainly among the most involved and adamant :).

With this unanswered for now, we bid a grateful goodbye to Owen, so pleased that he regularly comes to ASK Salt Spring to teach and listen, welcomes our numerous emails venting our concerns, works so very hard for us, and clearly cares deeply about our community. (Thank-you, Owen!)

Please join us this Friday, April 26, 11-1, in SIMS (former Middle School) classroom next to the Boardroom to welcome our Fire Trustees, staff, and firefighters.

What would you like to ask them?

  • Please give us all the details about progress with our new firehall.

  • In addition to the firehall, what other news do you have for us?

  • What do you suggest we do now to prepare for the fast approaching fire season?

  • What steps are you taking to offer alternates to the backyard burning of our lawn waste?

  • Is there any interest in beginning the conversation with the LCC about joining CRD to access grants and more favourable interest rates?

  • What are your biggest challenges firefighting on Salt Spring?

  • What solutions do you have to address these challenges?

  • And?

Please join us to welcome our Fire Folks this Friday!

Just in case you are interested. . . .This report has been written by Gayle Baker, Ph. D., founder of ASK Salt Spring, currently also a Salt Spring Local Community Commissioner. This report has also been edited by this week’s special guest.

Did you know that ASK Salt Spring now has an Event Organizer? Grant Fredrickson has stepped up to identify special guests and coordinate their visits. . . Wahoo!

Who else would like to help? Maybe you would like to take charge of weekly media? Do you see yourself facilitating? How about writing reports? Or. . . ?

Please join us making ASK Salt Spring ever better!

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 questions, anytime:

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

monthly schedule of upcoming gatherings?

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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