By Adam Daff and Alison Taylor
The Coalition to Save Eagleridge Bluffs is trying to make one kilometre of highway near Horseshoe Bay an election issue, but after the coalition made presentations to councils along the Sea to Sky corridor the Minister of Transportation has vowed to give as good as he gets.
Dennis Perry stepped down as president of the coalition two weeks ago in order to seek the Green Party nomination for West Vancouver-Garibaldi in the May 17 election. He did win the nomination but was back as part of a coalition delegation before Whistler and Pemberton councils this week, pressing a tunnel as an alternative to the overland highway route.
Squamish council, which heard from the coalition a couple of weeks ago, was not particularly receptive, but the Whistler and Pemberton councils both passed motions asking for information on the issue.
Whistler council voted unanimously to ask the province to hold off on a decision until they have had time to review more information.
"The tunnel is the Natural Step choice by far," said Perry, citing the fact that the shorter distance will have enormous impacts.
The tunnel option would be one kilometre shorter than the overland route but Perry said the detailed design would not be available until after the highway contract is finalized, which is expected this month.
Mayor Hugh O'Reilly also said council should invite the Ministry of Transportation to respond.
But Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon said the only thing the coalition can do at this point is "get political."
He added that the decision had already been made and it was based on four criteria: public safety, the environment, cost and capacity.
"The number one thing was public safety and selecting a two-lane tunnel would have resulted in double the number of projected fatalities. I know theyre now talking about a four-lane tunnel, but theyre changing their minds.
"The second issue was environmental considerations and in the very rigorous federal and provincial environmental assessment process we went through both options had environmental impact.
"The third issue was cost. The two-lane tunnel would cost $40 million more than the four-lane divided overland route.
"And the fourth issue was capacity, and that really speaks to what would be the ability of either option to handle a future increase in traffic volume. What we found was that the four-lane, divided overland route has twice the capacity to handle future traffic load."
Falcon also hinted that some of the coalition supporters had done a good job at hiding their motives.
"An important thing to recognize is that these guys keep making the argument that its all about the environment but the first meeting I ever had about this issue is when the West Vancouver mayor came over and brought along the developer from British Pacific Properties.
"And I can tell you the big issue was not the environment, it was the impact on the development plan and if you look at West Vancouvers Official Community Plan you will find that they had plans for 1,200 luxury homes, a golf course and a school in that area."