Highway upgrade plans and legacies picture becoming clearer 

Plans for upgrading the Sea to Sky highway are continuing to evolve.

At a recent meeting between officials of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Bid Corporation and International Olympic Committee members in Lausanne, Switzerland it was clear that the IOC didn’t expect the highway to be replaced with a four-lane motorway.

What the IOC is interested in said Terry Wright, vice-president of bid development domestic operations, is an upgrade that meets the needs of the communities it serves.

"We’ve always wanted something that works for the community and so does the IOC," said Wright who was in Whistler this week as part of a workshop with council on Olympic issues from transportation to culture.

Many highway upgrade options have been discussed in recent months. The three- and four-lane upgrades have drawn loud criticism from communities along the Sea to Sky as the plan proposes potentially devastating closures.

Under these options the road would be closed for four hours each day and eight hours each night for four days a week, nine months a year for four to six years.

But Wright said it looks like the options being seriously looked at now are more conservative.

"It will be some four-lane sections, and some two lane sections," he said.

Consideration is being given to paving the rail-bed to carry cars during the 17 days of the Games, so that there are always two lanes of traffic available to carry spectators.

Wright said it is just not feasible to make some parts of the highway three-lanes. But that’s the number of lanes needed for the Olympics so options must be considered.

In the end it will be up to government experts to lay out the plans for the highway. The Bid Corporation is hopeful the announcement will be made in time to include the plans in the bid book, which goes to press at the end of October and will be in the hands of the IOC in January 2003.

The multi-modal approach to transportation is being somewhat downgraded in importance.

Wright said it will still be in the bid book but the reality is the main form of transportation for those going to the Games will be the bus.

The Bid Corporation has also found the rail option to be very expensive.

"The train is so expensive, and we have to make sure we are getting value for money," said Wright, adding that more work needs to be done with the IOC on the rail and marine options, as they are not the norm when it comes to transportation.

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