Sliding centre raises access, safety issues 

Public gets first look at design of Olympic bobsleigh, luge, skeleton facility

Locals voiced concerns over road and pedestrian safety, power usage, and cost at a recently held open house on the design of the proposed Olympic Sliding Centre on Blackcomb Mountain.

"They have thought through the actual facility itself very well but they haven’t gone further to say what is the impact," said Peter Estlin of Pinnacle Ridge, a community off Glacier Drive, which leads to the site of the sliding centre.

Estlin was not alone in his concerns. Several people questioned officials at the open house, hosted by the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympics as part of the environmental review process, as to why the plan did not include a review and perhaps upgrade of Glacier Drive, a dead-end switchback road which leads from Blackcomb Way up Blackcomb Mountain to Base II

Top of mind was the risk posed to pedestrians by all the extra traffic the sliding centre development will bring to the area.

As part of the deal with Intrawest, VANOC has agreed to increase the size of parking lots seven and eight at Base II.

Currently, said Estlin, there is no sidewalk along the road so the many people who make their way on foot up and down the mountain walk on the side of the road. In treacherous conditions that can lead to accidents.

"In terms of Whistler as a whole it is probably one of the worst roads and it is going to lead to more deaths and injuries and I just don’t think they have considered this," he said.

Estlin, reached after the meeting for his comments, was not alone in his concerns.

"I personally have picked up two young ladies off the road down there with broken limbs and taken them to the clinic over the past two years," said Dr. John Williams, also of Pinnacle Ridge.

The concerns over safety are not new and Williams and others have written to the municipality about them.

"I personally wrote and they have never responded," said Williams commenting last week.

"…That is disappointing because we are concerned about the community and we care about it. A lot of us are very involved in the community. I am one of the 50 members of the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation and my wife teaches as a volunteer unpaid professional at the elementary school.

"I think this is something that must be addressed."

Williams said he was disappointed that the designers of the sliding centre did not take this into consideration during their planning.

Both VANOC spokeswomen Maureen Douglas, and the director of the environmental reviews, George McKay, welcomed the comments and said it was an issue they would look at.

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