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Last link in Valley Trail network being finalized

Highway re-paving, painting scheduled to begin in May

Spring is in the air, in between flakes of falling snow anyway, which signifies the start of construction season in Whistler.

It's going to be a busy season for the Resort Municipality of Whistler with post-Olympic projects like the conversion of the Medals Plaza into a public space ($8.4 million); improvements to the Austria Passive House ($100,000) to turn it into a usable space; ongoing work on the Sea to Sky Trail ($160,000), additional upgrades to the day-skier parking lots ($320,000), employee housing initiatives ($2.25 million) and dozens of other projects big and small.

Among them is the construction of a section of Valley Trail that will connect the Spring Creek subdivision to Function Junction and the Cheakamus Crossing/athletes' village neighbourhood - the final section connecting Emerald Estates at the north end of town to the south end. Some sections still follow roads, but the entire length of the trail is paved.

The final section of trail is budgeted for $722,904 to be spent this year, followed by $200,000 in 2011 for lighting.

The entrance to the trail for Spring Creek is challenging and grades will be slightly steeper as a result.

"We are at the design drawing stage and probably 90 per cent complete on it, but we're relatively confident with the grades that run through there," said Dave Patterson, RMOW manager of parks and village operations. "Ideally we would be able to run everything at six per cent (maximum steepness) but that's not going to happen."

The trail will mainly follow the singletrack trail through the area, although the bike route is too steep to build the trail. As a result, the new valley trail section will head uphill closer to the highway, then turn back in to follow the same general route as the singletrack.

In addition to completing the design, the municipality also has to get permission from the Bear Ridge strata for one section of the trail. Once both of those details are taken care of the municipality is hoping to have the project out to tender by the end of April and start construction by early June.

"It should be pretty fast to build it, it's not in anyone's way or interfering with anything," said Patterson.

In addition to the steep entrance the trail also has to descend into the Interpretive Forest parking lot to connect with a trail to Cheakamus Crossing, something which will require a few switchbacks to lose grade gradually.

Whistler residents will also see some changes to the highway in the next few months. According to Ministry of Transportation spokesman Dave Crebo, the road from Function Junction to Whistler Village will be repainted and patched in sections, notably along the centre line where the reflectors will be dug up. The tentative start date for that project is May, although most of the work is weather-dependent.

"We'd like to get back to the two-lane configuration sometime in May or in June," said Crebo.

The third lane built for the Olympics will become a bike lane for the summer.

There will also be highway delays in the Porteau Cove area as the paving is removed from a section of the rail bed. Crebo says that project will get underway within weeks and should be completed by the end of April.