Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard stands on a 75-year-old bridge at Wilkinson Road near Lindsay Street that will be replaced as part of a larger project to improve Wilkinson Road for cyclists and pedestrians

Feds help fund Wilkinson Road upgrades

A $2.5-million upgrade to Wilkinson Road will make it easier to walk and bike along the notoriously traffic-heavy street.

A $2.5-million upgrade to Wilkinson Road will make it easier to walk and bike along the notoriously traffic-heavy street.

Saanich this week received a $1.75 million contribution to pay for most of the project through the Federal Gas Tax Fund. Taxpayers will be on the hook for $250,000 and development cost charges will pay the remaining $500,000.

The upgrade will see the installations of bike lanes from Mann Avenue to Lindsay Street, as well as extensions and improvements of sidewalks along Wilkinson. A 75-year-old pedestrian bridge near Lindsay Street will also be widened.

“This is replacing old infrastructure and making it new. This is not increasing the road capacity, this is not going to solve a traffic jam problem,” said Mayor Frank Leonard. “We’ve got an old bridge, we’ve got old infrastructure, and if we don’t deal with it, the next generation of taxpayers would either have a big bill or failed bridge. We can turn it into an asset for many decades to come.”

The project also includes plans for a rain garden that will treat stormwater before it enters the nearby Colquitz River. As well, the bike lanes will connect with Saanich’s Centennial Trail.

Leonard said there will come a day when the five-corners intersection – where Wilkinson meets Hastings Street and Interurban Road – is the focus of an upgrade, but stresses that this project isn’t it.

“Right now there’s no consensus and no budget. Obviously because of that we can’t just wait around (for those to be in place) and let the bridge rot away in the meantime,” he said.

Saanich isn’t new to receiving money from the Gas Tax Fund. A joint request with View Royal in 2011 earned the two municipalities $10 million to rebuild the Craigflower Bridge.

Saanich engineers are now working on a detailed design of the project. That process will be followed by some sort of public consultation. Physical work may not begin until 2014 or 2015.

kslavin@saanichnews.com