It’s been a frantic couple of weeks on the streets and trails of Whistler, with enough people in town to make some long for the solitude of the city. The daily bumper-to-bumper traffic of the last two weeks, heading north in the morning and south in the evening, has frustrated some to the point where there have been calls to build the west-side bypass route or widen the highway to four lanes through the municipality. To those who make that call we say: take a pill. Sure it’s been frustrating, but let’s look at the problem in context. The west-side bypass route was "a line on a map" approved last summer by council in order to get permission from the Ministry of Highways to develop another intersection on Highway 99, which will provide access to the recreation centre and the high school, when it’s built. It came down to a matter of principle. Highways wanted municipal approval of a bypass route before it would allow another intersection to slow traffic on Highway 99. The mayor said at the time that a bypass route likely wouldn’t be built for another 15 years. Spending millions of dollars to gouge out a big scar across the west side of the valley wouldn’t have helped traffic problems the last two weeks anyway, because 99.9 per cent of drivers were headed to or from the village or the lifts, rather than Pemberton. Making the highway four lanes through the municipality is another million dollar solution to a temporary problem. Unenforced speed limits already make the highway a dangerous place for cyclists, in-line skaters and pedestrians, four lanes would mean a freeway through town — at least to the municipal boundaries, where traffic would again become snarled because the highway is only two lanes. The question is, do we really need increased highway capacity through the municipality? Sure Whistler is growing, but it’s supposed to be destination skiers filling all those new beds that are being built in our pedestrian village. How many of those people in cars over the holidays were destination skiers? A lot of them seemed to be heading north in the morning and south in the evening. Rather than spend millions to increase the highway’s capacity (a move which generally encourages more people to drive their cars) couldn't more be done to encourage car pooling, buses or even ski trains? BC Rail's regularly scheduled passenger train service is not convenient for day skiers — arriving in Whistler after the lifts open — but perhaps a special early morning run could be added for a week or two over the Christmas and Easter holidays. Car owners generally need considerable encouragement to take a bus, but if it was common knowledge in Vancouver that Whistler is gridlocked each morning and afternoon during the holidays, buses might seem more attractive. In each of the past three Christmases the lift companies have set new records for skier visits. Through planning, innovation and co-operation Whistler should be able to cope with these regular, planned influxes of people without tearing up more of the valley. – Bob Barnett


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