Study to take place on third highway lane 

Council brief: Council formalizes opposition to asphalt renewal

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO - HIGHWAY STUDY The potential for a third lane on highway 99 will be studied by the provincial government.
  • File photo
  • HIGHWAY STUDY The potential for a third lane on highway 99 will be studied by the provincial government.

The potential for a third lane between Function Junction and Whistler Village on Highway 99 is set to be studied by the provincial government.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has agreed to conduct a feasibility study for the lane, a Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) spokesperson confirmed.

The timing may be right, as Fortis Gas needs to bring a new high-pressure line through the same route and will already be doing construction along the highway.

There is currently no timeframe for the study, but the potential for a third lane has been discussed at the RMOW's Transportation Advisory Group in the past, said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.

"What we don't want to do is just build a third lane that will just fill up with cars, because if you build it, they will come," Wilhelm-Morden said. "If we get a third lane, we'd want to use it for some kind of dedicated bus lane that would reverse directions depending on the time of day."

The possibility of a high-occupancy vehicle or carpool lane was also discussed, "but when you do look at vehicles coming up on a Saturday morning for example, a lot of them have at least two people in them," Wilhelm-Morden said.

"So we really want to be smart about the use of the third lane, because there's no point in just building more capacity to fill up with cars."

COUNCIL OPPOSES RENEWAL OF ASPHALT PLANT LEASE

Whistler council is officially opposed to a 30-year lease renewal application by Whistler Aggregates, Ltd., for its gravel quarry licence in Cheakamus Crossing.

But if the lease is to be renewed, council hopes it to be significantly shorter and come with some additional boundary modifications.

At the March 7 meeting, council passed a resolution stating its opposition, as well as one asking that, if the tenure is to be renewed, the term be reduced to one year instead of 30, and that the boundary be modified to increase the tree buffer and operational setback from the residential neighbourhood next door.

"We appreciate that the decision by the province on this issue is a difficult one for them — I don't know if they have ever turned down a renewal of a gravel pit operation," Wilhelm-Morden said before the meeting, noting that the province doesn't typically ask for referrals on renewals such as this.

"We will be making a very strong case for not renewing... we've got a fairly comprehensive planning exercise on the boards for this year at Cheakamus Crossing, and this will give us an opportunity to complete that planning exercise, and to work with both the province and the operator with respect to relocation."

Reached for comment just before deadline, Whistler Aggregates owner Frank Silveri said he doesn't agree with the opposition.

"We're just renewing and following the regulations there, it's due for renewal and that's it," he said. "If you look at the report from the air-quality monitoring, everything seems to be fine and I don't see any problems, really. I guess other people think different, of course."

The Ministry of Forests has received 34 letters regarding the application, a spokesperson said, and ministry staff is conducting a thorough review of the application.

Wilhelm-Morden said the RMOW's strongest case lies with what it is using the lands in that area for.

"It's one of our largest resident-occupied neighbourhoods... we've got increased pressures on tourism-related activities outside of the village, so for example, Trainwreck and the new bridge that we've put in there, we've got the Sea to Sky Trail that goes through that area, we've got consideration for an artificial turf multi-purpose field going in that area, we've got the athletes' high performance centre there," she said.

"So to have continued heavy industrial activity adjacent to all of that just doesn't make sense."

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