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Get out of your car, save the air

Public to get glimpse of highway, air quality plans at open houses

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By Alison Taylor

An ambitious goal to get residents and guests out of their cars and into other modes of transportation is part of Whistler’s strategy to deal with congestion and air quality in the next 15 years.

Transportation Demand Management programs will aim to reduce the number of day skiers, commuters and residents using cars by 50 per cent by the year 2020.

It’s part of a series of recommendations from the Whistler Resort Transportation Study, which will be presented to the community next week, to deal with increased pressure on Highway 99 running through Whistler.

While transportation was on the agenda Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden took the opportunity to raise concerns about plans on the province’s books for a highway bypass around Whistler. Those plans, which have been on the books for years, protect a right of way above Alta Lake Road on the west side of the valley.

“How can we finally put a stake in the heart of this thing?” she asked council and senior staff Monday night.

The reason why it’s on the books, explained administrator Bill Barratt, is it was an alternative to building a four-lane highway through the valley to relieve the pressure of growth.

Nobody likes the bypass plans, said Wilhelm-Morden, except highway engineer types.

Still, by 2020 it is estimated there will be a 20 per cent increase in daily vehicle traffic.

This will make traveling slower and the highway more congested. For example, it will take 21 minutes to travel from the day skier lots to Function Junction, as opposed to the 14 minutes it takes now.

Ultimately there will be no expansion to the highway through Whistler, however several recommendations that have come out of the study offer ways to reduce congestion and improve air quality in Whistler.

Included in the recommendations are plans to build a satellite day skier parking lot near Function Junction that could accommodate at least 800 vehicles, improve intersections to provide additional left turn capacity and add a 1.5 metre bike lane from Function Junction to Emerald Estates.

At the same time, Whistler is also looking at its air quality. The Sea to Sky Air Quality Management Plan focuses on preventative actions and maintaining clean areas.

The good news is the corridor has relatively clean, healthy air.

Among the actions outlined in the air quality plan are to lobby transit providers to reduce emissions in their fleets, promote alternatives to driving cars, reduce vehicle idling and integrate transit systems.

There will be two open houses on the air quality management plan and the transportation plan on Tuesday, November 14 at the Delta Whistler Village Suites. There will be a presentation on air quality at 6:30 p.m. during the open house, which runs from 6-8 p.m in the Raven Room. The transportation open house runs concurrently from 5 to 7:30 p.m. in the Whisky Jack Room.

Squamish will hold an open house on the air quality plan on Monday Nov. 20 from 3 to 7 p.m. in Council Chambers.

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