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Highway markers will make sense in February

Second northbound lane will be removed in the spring

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They appeared out of nowhere, a series of orange or yellow sticks that are clumped around highway intersections between Function Junction and Whistler Village, as well as a thick white line that is demarcated by orange barrels.

Both measures are temporary, according to David Mintak, the senior project manager for the Ministry of Transportation.

"The yellow pickets are just for defining temporary medians," he explained, adding that they don't mind if those areas fill up with snow. "We can go in there with snow removal equipment if we need to, but if we left a little snow in there it wouldn't be the end of the world because those are marked as no-go areas as well."

The markers are also designed to be flexible, although Mintak said he would prefer if drivers avoided hitting the markers and treated those areas as if there were concrete medians in place. They were designed to be temporary and easy to move, and were the best solution based on tests with highway contractors.

"The maintenance contractor was involved with us from the get-go when looking at solutions, and testing (the markers) and looking at how they plow around them," said Mintak. "There will be an army of maintenance vehicles out there if it starts snowing during the Olympics, because obviously it will be a priority to keep the road clear."

As for the lines on the highway, Mintak says they will make more sense when the Games approach and the orange barrels and some markers are removed to create a second northbound lane.

"We're actually doing this in four stages," he explained. "Stage one is the pre-Olympic laning we're seeing now and stage two is Games-time laning where the orange barrels will be removed and the lane opened up.

"Stage three takes place at the end of the Games, which is basically the same as Stage One, and Stage Four is the ultimate final stage where all the markers will be removed. If the Olympics were never here and we finished the widening project we would have painted out the new highway with wider lanes and wider shoulders, which is now what will happen in spring of 2010."

The project has not wrapped up yet, although the major construction is complete. Some minor work is still underway, and painting could take weeks as crews wait for dry windows to add fog lines and other touches.

The speed limit has been temporarily reduced to 50 km/h from Function Junction to Lorimer Road as a result of the narrower lanes, and pedestrians and cyclists are being asked to use the Valley Trail where possible.

"(With three lanes) we're utilizing full pavement, where usually we would have just two lanes with widened shoulders," said Mintak.

While people are using the northbound lane for cycling and walking, that lane is actually reserved for emergency use until the Games.

People are also being asked to note changes at Whistler Creek where the second southbound lane has been phased out and traffic light patterns have changed, as well as a new advance left light when travelling southbound at Village Gate Boulevard.

"There are a few changes to get used to, but last week we finally got the centre lines painted and the new line that splits northbound lanes so it should start making sense," Mintak added.

 

 

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