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Buses, highway upgrades key to transportation plans



Locals will get permits to drive the Sea to Sky if 2010 Winter Games are hosted in Whistler

VANCOUVER - Stay off the Sea to Sky highway between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. during the Olympics.

During those crunch hours at least 700 buses carrying 70 per cent of spectators will be travelling to venue sites, so if you’re on the road it’s going to be a long slow winding drive.

Locals will get free permits from the organizing committee running the Games. Those will let you travel anytime you want but clearly, you won’t want to be on the highway at peak times.

The highway is to receive $600 million in upgrades starting in May 2004 with construction completed in 2009.

During the morning peak period there will be two continuous lanes northbound and one lane southbound. This configuration will be maintained from Squamish to Whistler at all times.

During the late afternoon and evening peak periods, from Squamish to Vancouver, there will be two lanes south and one lane north.

This system will require the counter-flow of the middle lane in the three -lane section of the highway south of Squamish.

And while the highway won’t be closed to other visitors there will be no public parking in the resort during the Games.

Instead, said Terry Wright, vice-president of bid development, travellers and day skiers will be encouraged to get on the bus from Vancouver, and use public transportation in the resort.

"We will be going to some lengths so that no one has to drive their car," he said this week at the public release of the bid book in Vancouver.

For example the 2010 Bid Corp has already arranged for 120 extra transit buses for Whistler so that every subdivision will have more frequent service.

Wright explained the same crunch wouldn’t happen in the evening, as many spectators will stay on in the village for varying lengths of time to attend cultural events, eat and enjoy the resort before travelling back to the city.

Also revealed in the bid book was the decision to abandon rail service from Squamish to Whistler. Instead passenger rail service will run just from the Callaghan Valley to Creekside. Spectators going to the Creekside venue will use this service.

Two trains operating a 20-minute service will carry the visitors. A temporary staging area will be constructed beside the line opposite the entrance to the Callaghan Valley.

Ferries are still part of the transportation plan but at the meeting to release the bid book it was confirmed that they are not considered a major transportation vehicle. Rather they fit within the sustainable character of the Games.

There will be 16 passenger ferries, each of which will carry 325 people travelling between Vancouver and Squamish.

After the one-hour journey passengers will transfer to buses and continue the trip to Whistler or the Callaghan.

Athletes and officials will be provided with dedicated service and the media will have their own shuttle buses.

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