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Costs climb for debris barrier, paving parking lots

Revenue from pay parking expected to fund transit affordability program

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Parking in three of the day skier lots after the 2010 Winter Olympics will likely cost $8 per day in the winter and $12 per day in the summer.

Those are the latest numbers being discussed by staff at municipal hall as they finalize their business plan and prepare to tender the project.

“We are looking at between $8 and $12 per day,” said James Hallisey, manager of environmental projects for the municipality.

“As for our hourly rates, I am not sure that has been really determined, but it will be proportional to the daily rate.”

While the exact rates on day skier lots 1, 2 and 3 have not yet been finalized, the municipality is moving full steam ahead to get the lots paved by next July.

However the budget to pave the lots has increased by $300,000 since last year, to $4.6 million.

Meanwhile, the budget to build a debris barrier on Fitzsimmons Creek — a project closely linked to paving the parking lots — has increased by almost $1 million, to $6.9 million.

Hallisey said both cost increases, which add up to $1.2 million, are due to inflation in the construction market.

“Our construction costs have been going up an average of 15 per cent per year,” explained Hallisey.

He added: “That is just our budget number. We do not know what the actually costs are going to be. If we get some good prices, we are not going to spend more than we need to, but to make sure we have enough money in the budget to do the project, that is what we did.”

Also, VANOC’s offer to cover 40 per cent of the cost of upgrading the day skier lots has now been withdrawn.

“It was never really a firm commitment, but there had been some discussions so we had put it in the plan,” said Bill Barratt, general manager of environmental services for the municipality.

Barratt added that since VANOC has contributed to other costs associated with the 2010 Winter Games, like Whistler’s Celebration Plaza and the athletes’ village, the 40 per cent offer has now been scratched from the plan.

“In our 2008 plan, we show it as 100 per cent funded (by the municipality), and we made that adjustment in our capital fund,” he said.

To help cover these costs, the current business plan for the day skier lots estimates that revenue from pay parking will be $2 million per year, after 2010. That money will be used to pay the construction bill over a 20-year period, as well as pay for the operating costs of the upgraded parking lots and fund the municipal transit affordability program.

According to Barratt, approximately $500,000 a year that will go towards the transit affordability program to encourage residents to take transit through reduced bus fares.

“For example, a monthly pass costs $50 currently. Maybe, through the program, we could bring it down to $20,” said Barratt.

“We do not know exactly what form that will take, but the intent is to put it towards affordability programs through transit passes.”

A request for tenders to upgrade the three day skier parking lots and Lot 4 access road has been issued, and six local contractors have shown interest in working on the project. Until the bids are received, the exact construction schedule will not be known. However, Hallisey confirmed that the municipality is not going to close down the entire parking lot for any length of time.

“Essentially, Lot 1 will probably be closed for two weeks and half of Lot 2 or half of Lot 3, and things like that, and they (the contractors) are going to have to come up with a plan to keep as much of it open as possible,” he said.

Hallisey added that if the contractors do close down a large portion of the parking, it will be in the middle of the week and it will not be during peak tourist times, like the middle of summer.

The municipality only acquired the day skier parking lots from the B.C. government earlier this year. As part of the deal, the municipality is required to build the debris barrier, part of the effort to mitigate the Fitzsimmons landslip, before the 2010 Games.

When the deal was signed, there was speculation that the Fitzsimmons debris barrier might be delayed until after the Olympics because of high construction costs. The municipality’s position has been that if the project is too expensive, it would not have to move forward until it made financial sense.

At this point, however, it looks like the barrier could be built before the Games.

Hallisey said the request for tender will be released in about 10 days, and the municipality would like to see work on the debris barrier begin as soon as this fall.

“There is a lot of work to be done there, and it has been quite challenging to get everything done on time. We really need to do some preliminary work there this fall, and it is definitely a bit of a challenge,” he said, referring to the conditions associated with the landslip.

A parking fee will only be charged on day skier lots 1, 2 and 3, and it won’t be levied until after the 2010 Olympics. All other parking lots will remain free.

The municipality has scheduled an open house at the Whistler Public Library on Wednesday, July 23 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. to provide more information on plans for the day skier lots.

Pay parking common to ski resorts

• In Vail, Colorado, winter day parking rates range from $16 to $20 a day, depending on where you park. Summer parking is free.

• In Jackson Hole, Wyoming, parking costs $10 at the base. Skiers can also park for free at a satellite lot and take a shuttle.

• In Aspen, Colorado, pay parking in the downtown core costs $1 for the first hour, $3 for two hours, $5 for three hours and $8 for four hours.

• In Breckenridge, Colorado parking can cost up to $15.

• Parking is currently free in Banff, Alberta, but a pay parking feasibility study is scheduled for 2009.