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Multi-million dollar Gateway Loop needs more work

Council endorses Option B, adding more coaches, but won't release money yet

Council is reticent to pull the trigger on a $600,000 detailed design and engineering study for Gateway Loop upgrades in light of ongoing safety and traffic flow concerns.

Councillor Jack Crompton raised those concerns, specifically around bus access and pedestrian safety at the site, at Tuesday's meeting where municipal staff outlined its rationale for Option B — the middle-of-the-road approach to revamping Gateway Loop, where coaches, taxis, cars and pedestrians all converge in a busy and constrained site.

While Option B adds more loading and departing bays for Greyhound/PCL buses and re-jigs public parking, it still comes up short elsewhere.

"I feel like we need to know those things before we take our jumping-off point," said Crompton of his outstanding concerns, adding that the $600,000 "soft costs" are the starting point for the larger multi-million project, which could be in the range of $3.6 million in upgrades to the main taxi and Greyhound/shuttle bus loop.

In an effort to satisfy her colleague's concerns, Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden suggested council endorse Option B, but insisted on a staff report back to council dealing with the outstanding concerns before staff moves ahead with the more detailed engineering and design work.

"I share some of your concerns Councillor Crompton," said the mayor.

The Gateway Loop project calls for a reconfiguration of the area to not only make it more user friendly, but to add a more welcoming entry for Whistler's guests.

This is, after all, the point of arrival for 39 per cent of Whistler's summertime guests, and 49 per cent of its winter guests, close to the Visitor Information Centre.

"I'm tired of seeing people sitting out in the rain... with their suitcases getting soaking wet," said Councillor Andrée Janyk, who was comfortable moving forward with the staff recommendation.

"My main goal was to make sure visitors were being treated in a more comfortable way."

At the heart of the issue is the sheer volume of users on the site.

On any given busy day, there is an average of 5,000 on site; some days it can be as busy as 7,000 to 8,000 people.

Councillor Steve Anderson asked municipal manager of special projects Ted Battiston how many of those people were using Gateway Loop as a thoroughfare to access transit buses on Village Gate Boulevard.

Battiston did not have those exact numbers, but estimated it could be in the range of 1,000 people.

Many are jaywalking to get there.

The site presents other challenges.

As Battiston pointed out: "It's like you couldn't hide the village any better for someone getting off a Greyhound bus."

Given the prominence of the site, Anderson said he was also keen to see more upgrades, such as a heated area for guests to wait.

"If we're going to do this, I'd like to see it done in a big way," he said, recognizing he may not get all his wishes from bike storage to heated areas.

"I'd like to put our best foot forward."

Council choosing Option B marks the end of a year-long process of vetting potential options and reconfigurations of the site with staff, with stakeholders and with the public.

The plans will be back in front of council outlining ways to address the ongoing concerns.