Culliton Creek highway work ahead of schedule 

DFO releases clarification about concerns with Sea to Sky project

Despite being shut down because of the extreme fire hazard during summer, a short fall and a flood that devastated the area, the $18.2 million Culliton Creek highway project is ahead of schedule.

Dan Mayberry from GTM Consulting said the road builders expected to be finished the foundation work soon after building resumes in the spring.

"In terms of time lines, we are optimistic building can be done by the end of spring and then the paving should be done by summer," Mayberry said.

"We should be tidying up by next fall.

"By the terms of the contract we must have it completed by 2005. But we’re pretty optimistic we’ll be done before that."

Work on the highway upgrade between Culliton Creek and the Cheakamus Canyon has halted for the winter. The work is designed to promote road safety.

The project involves replacing, and seismically upgrading the deck of the North Culliton Creek Bridge. An additional lane will be added and improvements made to the alignment of the road.

Official testing for the yet-to-be-started $600 million Sea-to-Sky highway project is being conducted on a small section of highway north of Horseshoe Bay, but the Ministry of Transport is also monitoring the methods being used at Culliton Creek.

"There’s 275,000 cubic metres of rock to be moved so this is a fairly long and challenging undertaking," Mayberry said.

"The geo-technical make-up of rock at the north end of the highway is very different to what’s at the southern end near Horseshoe Bay, so insofar as the big Sea to Sky project, the Ministry of Transport is taking notes on how both are going."

Director of the Sea to Sky project for the Ministry of Transportation Peter Milburn said the Culliton Creek site was the most difficult area of highway to manage because of the amount of rock that needed to be blasted.

"We’re doing the toughest parts first in many ways because that area doesn’t have a lot of alternatives in terms of traffic management," Milburn said.

"The biggest challenge is minimizing delays or making sure if there are delays that they’re predictable so people can plan trips around the work.

"And it’s imperative we maintain traffic through the entire period because it’s a busy two-lane road and it’s very important in terms of commuter trips for business folks conducting commerce.

"But at the same time we need some of that road because that’s where some of the rocks we’re blasting land."

The Olympics has added a lot of prestige to the Sea to Sky project but at the same time there is now more pressure on those involved to get it right and finish ahead of time.

"We all realize there’s not much appetite for a 2011 Olympics and we’ve done a lot of planning and scheduling to account for worst case scenarios – but we’re up to the challenge," Milburn said.

In addition to the hundreds of companies involved with building the highway, Mayberry was full of praise for Tourism Whistler and their assistance in providing local data.

"We have the technical know-how about building highways but there’s other key components such as the day-to-day business of knowing traffic flows where Tourism Whistler have really been fantastic in helping this project along," he said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has written a clarification letter about a report it released on the $600 million Sea to Sky highway project.

The report, which was also endorsed by Health Canada and the Environmental Assessment Agency, criticized the Ministry of Transportation for the way it was managing some environmental issues on the Sea to Sky project.

The report outlines that the DFO, Health Canada and the Environmental Assessment Agency have "major concerns" with the project and with the fact that several recommendations had been "inadequately addressed."

The clarification letter was signed by the DFO’s Pacific Regional Director Susan Farlinger who wrote: "For a project of this size and scope, it’s not unusual for there to be some concerns about fish habitat."

Farlinger also states in her clarification letter that everything is proceeding "well" and "the DFO and B.C. Ministry of Transportation have been working together and have been able to avoid many potential impacts to fish and fish habitat."

The DFO’s clarification letter was released the same day Pique Newsmagazine called the department to discuss the Sea to Sky project and the contents of the damning report.

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