Sea-to-Sky Highway Closed

Well, it looks like Whistler is going to be pretty quiet this week.  Most people going to Whistler, Pemberton, or Lillooet will have to take the long way around.  The Sea-to-Sky has been closed with no alternative.  One article in the Vancouver Sun is calling this slide a “wake-up call.”  The article quotes Kevin Falcon:

Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon had not commented on the slide Wednesday morning, though Premier Gordon Campbell did answer questions after a groundbreaking in Victoria.

“This is not something I think anyone could have expected, anyone could have anticipated,” he said.

“For those of us who are observing it, the main thing you see is how powerful it is, how it’s really pretty awesome to see the size of some of those boulders that have fallen,” he added.

“We’re investing literally hundreds of millions of dollars in that road now to make it safer and more secure. Obviously we want to be sure the mountainside is secure, that’s one of the things that we’re constantly monitoring. I think the critical component is to say what would we do next?”

How can Kevin say that “this is not something … anyone could have expected”?  We have rockslides along Highway 99 all the time, every year.  Maybe not of this proportion every year, but it certainly should have been “expected” and “anticipated.” 

So we’ll have to wait and see what The Hon. Kevin Falcon has to say about alternatives down the road.  I personally would have thought a higher capacity rail link from North Vancouver to Whistler would have made a lot of sense and cut down on a lot of traffic along Highway 99.  I’m not a big fan of building a new highway through our watersheds on the North Shore.  I thought I remember somebody saying that in case of a rock slide, they would ferry people around the slide.  I wonder how many ferries they are going to have to employ in order to get Olympic traffic moving in a reasonable time frame. 

I think the Vancouver-Whistler 2010 Achille’s heel is showing itself very clearly now.  Maybe the people in power will come up with a better solution that a new 4-lane Sea-to-Sky Highway.

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2 comments

  1. A rail link makes the most sense. Almost all the traffic is going to the same destination (Whistler) or a stop along the way.

    The government did a studies on a potential high-speed rail link from Vancouver to Whistler (see reports), but back in 2000-2001, gas was cheap and climate change wasn’t the issue it is today. And none of the studies looked at environmental impacts or rising energy prices.

    High-speed rail would have been cheaper then the highway improvements, but it would have had higher annual operating costs.

  2. Very good point, Chris. Vaughn Palmer was defending the Liberals in their decision to choose upgrading the highway over all the other choices because it was the cheapest. But based on the price of gasoline nowadays, would it still be the cheapest option.

    Unfortunately, the train is still susceptible to slides because the existing rail line was also covered by the slide.

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