Beside the obvious upside of a brand-new modern hospital, the Comox Valley will apparently benefit from a related development.
The North Connector, a concept that hasn’t been bandied about publicly for at least eight years, will happen. Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone came to the Comox Valley to give us his word last week.
Choosing the single-lane bridge over Dove Creek to make his announcement with our MLA, all local mayors and the regional district chair present, Stone cited the project’s “very, very strong” merits.
A new connector linking our main population centre to the Inland Island Highway is a matter of when, not if, he vowed.
The impetus for the link is more a matter of connecting inland highway traffic to the Comox Valley than vice versa.
Even though Campbell River is getting its own hospital, ambulances coming from up Highway 19 — including the real North Island — will need a quicker route to reach the new Comox Valley hospital.
They’ve negotiated their way through Courtenay to get to St. Joseph’s in Comox for decades, but Comox Valley traffic congestion is making that an increasingly time-consuming drive.
Coming all the way down to the Comox Valley Parkway, down to Cliffe, across the river and up Ryan Road will take even longer by the time the hospital opens in 2017.
While Highway 19 onto the Parkway is an obvious route into Courtenay from the south for anyone in a hurry, the only option to the Parkway for southbound inland traffic is a slow, circuitous rural route including the tiny Dove Creek bridge.
Streamlining that route is “unquestionably at the top of my list (of capital projects) for Vancouver Island,” Stone stated, stressing that it would be a great fit with the opening of the new hospital.
Rural residents north of Courtenay will have to adjust to some increased traffic, but their sacrifice could save the lives of patients in southbound ambulances.