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More highway debate

MLA, council discuss roles, responsibilities

By Alison Taylor

Council is appealing to the province for help in maintaining the Sea to Sky Highway, keeping it safe and clear for motorists.

Mayor Ken Melamed said much of the blame for the highway conditions this winter, which has seen the highway close for hours at a time on at least three separate occasions, has been put at the feet of the RCMP.

“Let’s be clear,” said the mayor after Monday’s council meeting. “It’s not the RCMP’s job to maintain the highway opening and flow of traffic. That’s Ministry of Transportation and Highways.

“In all the cases of the highway closure(s), Ministry of Transportation and Highway staff have been unavailable to manage the flow of traffic. RCMP has had to fill in that role in the absence of Ministry of Transportation and Highway staff. So we think there is that issue.”

Councillor Eckhard Zeidler took the opportunity to lobby the provincial government with local MLA Joan McIntyre visiting council.

He said there needs to be more employees on the roads, more sanding trucks and more heavy tow-trucks stationed at critical areas.

McIntyre said she has had a debriefing from the RMCP and is aware of the challenges. The province is spending $600 million on upgrades to the highway, she said, adding that it is in their interests for it not to be known as a dangerous highway.

“It’s on my radar screen,” she said.

When asked by Councillor Tim Wake if the province was satisfied with the level of service from the contractors, McIntrye said: “I think there’s always issues, to be honest.”

Mayor Melamed reiterated concern with the job the contractors are doing later that night.

“I think the simple answer is: ‘yes, we think they can be doing better.’

“It’s the province’s job, through the private contractors, to maintain and keep the highway open.”

McIntyre was invited to speak to council on Monday night.

She highlighted provincial investments in Whistler, among them money for infrastructure grants, traffic fine revenues, arts funding and funding for the bear aversion program.

Whistler will continue to see investments she said, at the same time throwing out a level of caution about health care funding in the province.

Almost 45 per cent of the provincial budget deals with health care. It is predicted that will jump to 70 per cent by 2017.

McIntyre said the province needs the public’s help to deal with that challenge.