Issues of Interests in Victoria This Fall

Johnson Street Bridge

Johnson Street Bridge

Johnson Street Bridge Project Finally Sees Progress

Since the decision to replace the Johnson Street Bridge, the now 93-year-old bascule bridge connecting Vic West and Esquimalt to downtown Victoria, was made by city council in April of 2009, it has been one of the most contentious and debated projects in the city’s history. A series of political bungles, material mix-ups and missed deadlines have coloured the history of this public works project. The bridge’s development problems have become so well-known they have begun to garner national attention, winning joke-awards for being the worst municipal project in Canada. Construction on the Johnson Street Bridge began in May of 2013 with the anticipated deadline of Summer 2015. The deadline, following issues with steel shipments, was then extended by a few months each year. Now, in the summer of 2017, the deadline has once again been extended to March of 2018. The first shipment of the much-debated Chinese steel for completion of the bridge has finally, after what has amounted to years of waiting, arrived in Victoria’s harbour on August 22, 2017.

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Victoria Bids for Commonwealth Games 2022

The Commonwealth Games is an international multi-sport event that has been held in various member-states of the Commonwealth since 1930. Now held every four years, the games include 22 sports, seven para-sports, and any number of optional sports selected by the host city. Canada is one of only six nations that have participated in every edition of the Commonwealth Games, and has hosted the games four times. Victoria has hosted the Commonwealth Games once, in 1994. Following some financial issues in Durban, South Africa, the original host for the 2022 Games, Victoria has now thrown its name into the ring with a bid to host the games once again. There has been some disagreement as to how much the bid will cost taxpayers, particularly from the provincial Finance Minister, but the organizers of the bid are enthusiastic. The Commonwealth Games in 1994 are somewhat credited for putting Victoria on the world map, and inspiring national teams from across Canada to move to Victoria for training year-round. Victoria is competing with the English cities of Liverpool and Birmingham for the hosting bid. The decision is expected to made in early fall, 2017.

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Policy Changes for BC Ferries

A key player in island life, every Victoria resident has a strong opinion about BC Ferries. Running the only boat service from Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and parts of the Sunshine Coast, BC Ferries is the main form of transportation for most islanders to access the mainland of British Columbia. A recent news release by BC Ferries has announced some changes to their services. Namely, on certain ships passengers will no longer be permitted to remain below deck in their vehicles throughout the sailing. While this has been common practice on many vessels since Transport Canada updates in 2007, BC Ferries has now been compelled to alter their practice of monitoring lower decks as a form of mitigating risk. Additionally, BC Ferries will no longer permit smoking at their terminals, nor on their vessels (including outer deck spaces). While some welcome these changes, any news regarding BC Ferries is fuel for the fire of public commentary regarding the company’s services.

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Potential Incoming High-Rises to Change Victoria Skyline

For decades, there have been restrictions on the height of high-rise buildings in Victoria. Following community pressure in the 1970s, the city placed zoning restrictions on the heights of buildings in the downtown area that may obstruct the beautiful views for current residents. Consequently, there are less than twenty high-rise buildings over fifty metres in Victoria. In the face of limited housing options, however, these zoning rules have become increasingly flexible in recent years. Victoria is a fast-growing community, a bustling city attracting new youthful energy, but has limited space due to geographic realities. The city is now considering taller and taller buildings to help accommodate new residents. The latest proposal is a twenty-nine story building up to 84 metres tall. This would be the tallest high-rise on Vancouver Island, and the tallest in Victoria by far. While some residents welcome this project that would help host the influx of newcomers to the city, government officials remain divided on the issue. The decision regarding zoning will be made in the late fall of 2017.

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#Biketoria Continues Expansion to Fort Street

Victoria has long been hailed as the cycling capital of Canada, with nearly 10% of the population biking to work (the highest rate in the country!). While the mild weather is certainly an active factor in this statistic, continued investment in cycling infrastructure contributes as well. Victoria already has a series of commuter trails to outlying communities, including the Galloping Goose Trail from downtown to Sooke, and the Lochside Trail reaching all the way to the Swartz Bay ferry terminal. In the summer of 2015, the city launched the #Biketoria project to improve cycling access within the city itself through a series of protected bike lanes to increase safety and incentive for cycle commuters. In May of 2017, the first protected two-way bike lanes were put in along Pandora Avenue from Cook Street to the Johnson Street Bridge. While these lanes have the source of much public scrutiny, the local government has made the choice to continue on with #Biketoria. Next up: protected two-way bike lanes will be put in along Fort Street. Construction is set to begin in the fall of 2017, and the lanes should be completed in the early spring of 2018.

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