The British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA) has proclaimed the road between Pemberton and Whistler the eighth worst road in the province.
That's no surprise to the thousands who drive and cycle it each year. But it also brings home the issue as the region continues to grow its cycling tourism and gets ready to host several cycling events including IronMan Canada, August 25.
Cyclist Tony Routley of Team Whistler said he feels the route needs an upgrade.
According to the avid road rider, many Whistler cyclists opt against riding on Highway 99 and choose instead to ride their mountain bikes off-road because they feel unsafe riding their road bikes on the highway.
"There's some rough spots, there's some spots where the shoulder is super narrow," said Routley.
If the route gets an upgrade, Routley said there's an opportunity for Whistler and Pemberton to market the route as a cycling destination that would attract more visitors to the region.
"It could be an excellent opportunity for something to be done for cyclists specifically on a new road development," Routley said. "We're a tourist area, we've got tons of people riding their bikes on the road now, more all the time. We've got new events coming to town that are increasing that cycling traffic."
With the growing popularity of cycling, the Resort Municipality of Whistler has also revised a multi-stakeholder cycling committee to create a communications plan aimed at sending out messages about sharing the roads, promoting popular cycling routes, while building awareness of cycling safety and raising awareness of Whistler as a road cycling destination.
And this week saw Pemberton host a community meeting to discuss cycling events, which not only include Ironman, but also the NIMBY Fifty and Slow food Cycle Sunday — though neither of those rely on using the highway to Whistler.
Ironman Canada racers will compete on the stretch of highway between Pemberton and Whistler. Organizers of the event are currently working out highway-delay details with the provincial government.
Said Ironman race director Keats McGonigal: "Safety is always paramount to every Ironman event. We create excellent traffic management systems that enable the route to be safe for the athletes and the travelling public in every Ironman community."
New MLA Jordan Sturdy, who will also act as the parliamentary secretary to the minister of transportation and infrastructure, said he isn't aware of any plans to upgrade the highway this year.
But, said Sturdy, "The pressure is on me," referring to the expectations by regular users of the road who would like upgrades for the route.
There isn't any special capital spending planned for the route between Whistler and Pemberton, as far as Sturdy know. But, he said, some shoulder improvement work was done last year and he understands that similar work is planned for this year.
A spokesperson with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) reported by email that $700,000 is to be spent this year on resurfacing projects at Nairn Falls, One Mile Lake and possibly around the WedgeWoods area. Mainroad Contracting also plans to do spot patching and shoulder work in a number of places this summer.
According to the MOTI communications department spokesperson, a more substantial corridor asphalt rehabilitation project is about four or five years away, depending on priorities and funding options.
Problems on the highway between Pemberton and Whistler should be reported to Mainroad. There is a handy "Report a Problem" link at www.drivebc.ca that highway users can use to report road hazards.
The BCAA report on worst roads in B.C. was based on feedback from drivers and other road users who participated in an online provincial survey conducted in May.
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