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Overnight closures on the Malahat cause supply chain issues


It took Chad Swanson nearly three hours to drive from his home in Shawnigan Lake to his job in Langford Wednesday morning, a commute that usually takes around 20 minutes. 

“I’ve been commuting on the Malahat since 2016 and this is probably the worst traffic I’ve ever been stuck in, in that time,” he said.

Overnight closures on the Malahat highway are planned through the week and into the weekend as road crews continue to repair flood damage. Huge volumes of water pooled on the highway Monday, eroding part of the shoulder in a section near Tunnel Hill. 

The highway is the main artery connecting south Vancouver Island to the rest of the Island and the ripple effects of the closure are being felt by many who rely on the road. 

Swanson’s partner, Laura O’Brien says her best option for groceries right now is near Duncan, where she noticed some empty shelves and difficulty buying dairy products. 

“I’m worried for people who can’t make it to the grocery stores. Or for people who think, ‘yeah we have grocery stores open now,’ and they won’t be able to get what they need.”

Concern over supply chain disruptions led to long lineups at gas stations in the Capital Region Wednesday, with some stations running out of fuel. 

Erik Gault, director of operations for Peninsula Co-op, says all the gas sold in Victoria comes over the Malahat and that has been impacted by overnight closures. “That really threw the real monkey wrench into things. Most of the fuel that’s delivered to Co-op locations is delivered between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.”

Gault thinks gas stations will struggle to keep up with demand over the next week, but if the highway repairs stay on schedule, the situation should normalize after that. 

“What we’re telling people is get enough gas to get yourself around for a few days. Leave some there for the next person and wherever possible, avoid travel on the Malahat. I think there needs to be some tighter scrutiny on the Malahat to determine what is essential travel so we can allow some of the commercial goods to flow again.” 

Erik Gault, director of operations for Peninsula Co-op, says he thinks gas stations will struggle to keep up with demand over the next week — but that things could normalize afterward if highway repairs stay on schedule. (Ken Mizokoshi/CBC)

Meanwhile, the province is working on maintaining the supply chain on Vancouver Island to avoid shortages. 

B.C. Transportation Minister Rob Fleming says the overnight closures on the Malahat highway have been successful and work to repair the road is progressing. 

“Single-lane alternating traffic is open in daylight hours and for the next five and if necessary, six evenings there will be closures at night.”

B.C. Ferries ran the small Mill Bay – Brentwood Bay ferry overnight Monday to help move people who were stranded on either side of the Malahat. Extra sailings were added on Tuesday and Wednesday, but Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall says they don’t have enough crew to continue adding extra sailings to that route as of Thursday. 

B.C. Ferries is also adding one round trip between Swartz Bay and Duke Point on Thursday to move essential goods and travellers between Victoria and Nanaimo. Reservations will not be offered for the three-hour sailing and in a statement, B.C. Ferries says “the company continues to examine opportunities for more sailings as required.” 

People have also voiced concerns online about travelling from areas north of the Malahat to doctor’s appointments in Victoria. 

The Island Health Authority says there are no major disruptions to its health care services and COVID-19 tests — which are all processed in Victoria — are still within a 24-hour turnaround. 

The Health Authority’s transportation vehicles also have priority access on the Mill Bay – Brentwood Bay ferry route to “ensure specimen delivery to Victoria.”

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