The building blocks are in
place to get Highway 99 through Whistler in shape for the 2010 Olympic and
Paralympic Winter Games.
The Ministry of
Transportation has drawn up the preliminary design, which includes tentative
plans for extending the Valley Trail to the athletes’ village, upgrading the
bus bay system and improving the slope on Nordic Hill.
The project is expected to go
out to tender by early summer, with a construction schedule set after that. But
Joyce Chang, a representative from the transportation ministry, said that the
budget for the project has not yet been approved.
is probably too far in the future to know when construction will begin,” she
are actually doing the design work right now to see what needs to be done, and
what are the cost estimates. Funding is another question for later on.”
Project plans follow a
Transportation Advisory Group (TAG) meeting held last month, as well as an open
house and information session held approximately a year and a half ago.
Plans to rework Nordic Hill
were added following the open house and are still being solidified.
“Basically what happened at
the (January) meeting is that the Ministry of Transportation gave the update
that they are going ahead with this project,” said Tim Wake, chair of TAG.
“The stakeholder group gave
the message back that they really hoped the Nordic Hill would be part of it.”
Nordic Hill is a problematic
area on Highway 99, especially during the winter as vehicles often get stuck
and cause traffic congestion.
A consultant, ISL Engineering and Land Services, examined
this area and found that the geometries of the road do not meet current roadway
standards. The section also did meet the standards of the day when it was
According to Chang, the
consultant is now looking at reducing the road’s elevation grades.
Despite the fact that details
are still being hammered out, Wake said the project should be completed within
the next two years.
“I am pretty confident the
project will get done before the Olympics, and the Ministry of Transportation
is on track to do that,” said Wake.
“Part of the challenge is the
Nordic Hill work, since the solution there is probably the most time consuming
and disruptive, and of course we are concerned about highway disruption leading
up to the games. What is better: Not to get the upgrade done, or to get the
upgrade done but have severe disruption between now and the Games?”
He added that traffic volumes
are just as high in the summer as they are in the winter, so there is no ideal
time for the construction to take place.
The upgrades are being done
in combination with the Sea to Sky Highway Improvement Project, also overseen
by the Ministry of Transportation.
“This is a major project for
the Whistler valley,” said Brian Barnett, general manager of environmental
“The Sea to Sky project ends
at the Function Junction intersection, and this is all the work necessary
within the valley to really complete the highway upgrade. This is larger than
minor improvements that get done from time to time.”