Letter from resident leads to speed-limit reduction in Emerald 

Ministry rectifying error after changing signs incorrectly in august

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS - Changing direction A letter from Rhonda Wittman to the Ministry of Transportation led to the province correcting mistakenly increased speed limits in the Emerald Estates area.
  • Photo BY Braden Dupuis
  • Changing direction A letter from Rhonda Wittman to the Ministry of Transportation led to the province correcting mistakenly increased speed limits in the Emerald Estates area.

An Emerald Estates resident's letter to the Ministry of Transportation has resulted in the speed limit being reduced along Highway 99 through the neighbourhood.

Rhonda Wittman said she was "speechless" when she noticed the new speed-limit signs posted recently along the highway.

"Personally, I was very annoyed," she said.

"When you see something like that it affects you a lot, because you're in the area, and you not only have to listen to the noise, you are now the one that has to cross the street, and you've got all those other factors that come with it."

The increases meant that there were now four speed changes between Emerald and Cougar Mountain: from 60 km/hr to 80 to 90, to 70 at the corner and then back to 90 km/hr.

The previous limit of 60 km/hr — reduced some years back after a successful lobbying campaign from residents — was increased to 80 and 90 km/hour in the area from the Rainbow subdivision to Cougar Mountain on Highway 99. The changes came following a provincial highway safety and speed review.

But as Wittman pointed out, the changes to speed limits through Emerald were not mentioned anywhere in the review.

The report mentions speed limit increases from Whistler to Cache Creek beginning 400m south of Whistler Heliport Road.

"I'm sorry, but that's past Cougar Mountain," Wittman said. "So how did 90 km/hr end up down here? That's against their own report."

Wittman was already in the process of drafting a letter voicing her concerns over a lack of infrastructure in the area when the speed limits were increased.

"So of course, when it hit 90 and 80, it kind of just blew me over the top even more," she said.

"It was like, OK, now I'm really irate."

Once the situation had been drawn to the attention of the ministry it was quick to act.

The recent increases from 80 and 90 km/hour in the area from the Rainbow subdivision to Emerald Estates will soon be changed back to 60 km/hr.

According to the ministry, the 60-km/hr signs were changed by mistake.

"During installation, there was an error in the sign placement and some of the 60 km/hr section was included in the change," a ministry spokesperson said in an email.

No one at the ministry was made available for comment.

The increase to 90 km/hr outlined in the ministry's highway safety and speed review — beginning 400 metres south of Whistler Heliport Road and continuing north to Pemberton — will be kept.

"The revised speed limits were based on an extensive engineering review by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure's Professional Engineers and conducted in accordance with standards used throughout North America," the ministry's email said.

"This included a review of safety data, current operating speed, adjacent land use and highway design. The section for increase from 80 km/hr to 90 km/hr met all safety and design standards."

Wittman said she plans to continue her push for better infrastructure in the Emerald area.

The petition she originally wrote to lobby for reduced speed limits has been redrafted to focus solely on the infrastructure needs of the area.

"I plan on moving ahead with it, because it is still lacking. We still have problems even at 60 safely crossing the highway," she said.

"It's still something that is required there, and given some of the comments that I've seen in both the Pique (online) comments and the petition, people are saying that you need crosswalks there, you need some sort of infrastructure."

In the Emerald area, there are no traffic lights or turning lanes, which means turning into Emerald can be dangerous at times.

There are also no crosswalks, which makes crossing the highway on foot difficult as well.

In a second emailed response, the Ministry of Transportation said that safety is its top priority and that it values the feedback from stakeholders regarding their thoughts on road safety.

"We continually monitor road safety on Highway 99, and our staff will be reaching out to the Resort Municipality of Whistler to discuss future priorities for the community," the email said.

Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said she was surprised to see the increased speed limits.

"I noticed when the sign changed right away, and I went, 'oh my goodness, I think that's a mistake,'" she said.

"I was on council back in the day when we lobbied for that section to be reduced from 80 km/hr to 60, and you know, it was really quite a lobbying effort."

Wilhelm-Morden had her staff contact the ministry to request the speed limit be changed back to 60 km/hr this week as well.

Wittman's revised petition — which includes her push for improved infrastructure — can be viewed online at www.ipetitions.com/petition/speed-limit-reduction-and-improved-infrastructure.

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