Features & Images » Feature Story

Howe Sound on one side, rock cliffs on the other, and A HIGHWAY runs through it

Motorists have seen few disruptions, but Highway 99 upgrade has conservationists and property owners alarmed.

by

comment

Page 3 of 5

"Our concern is that once it’s opened up," Jenkins said, "it’s like opening up any other forest, the resulting blowdown is a cumulative thing. We have a report from an expert in blowdown that says the whole wetland could blow down – all the trees."

The snow is crisp underfoot at the wetland as McArthur points out tree scorches from a 1947 fire. He was 10 when his father volunteered to fight the fire and his mother and other local women made sandwiches for the crews. "I remember looking out the window and seeing the glow of the hillside all red with fire – it was terrifying."

Opposed to the $130-million overland section not just because of environmental concerns, McArthur, who has worked as project manager on large-scale electrical construction projects in Iran, Columbia, and B.C . , says feeder routes for the highway have not been well thought out.

"Look at how Taylor Way and the Lions Gate Bridge jams up between 4 and 7. We’re going to encourage more development up the corridor by fixing up this highway but what the hell is going to feed it?"

As co-chair of the Western Residents Association, he and the group also oppose the overland section for safety reasons. They are concerned about the Upper Levels section where the new route diverges from ferry-bound traffic. Construction drawings show that motorists have seven exit options in 200 metres, about 1000 metres short of what Canadian highway design regulations recommend.

Earlier this week, after viewing a computerized rendering of the overland route, West Vancouver district and council unanimously rejected the province’s proposed route.

Peter Milburn is the executive project director who deals with tough questions such as when building a supposedly safer highway, why build what some say is an unsafe overland section when a tunnel would do a better job?

"The tunnel is a less safe option," Milburn said. "There would have been no median divider and there would have been potential for head-ons."

Milburn maintains there are only two primary exit options off the Upper Levels to the proposed overland section and says highway design has been examined and approved by provincial experts. As to the eight per cent grade: "In West Vancouver there are already 14 per cent grades," he said. "All the exits are safe and all of the roadway in this design is safe."

Keeping motorists and her crew safe is Teresa Fernandez’s daily concern. As we drive from Brunswick Pit to one of her crews setting up 8.5 kilometres away at Strachan Point Road, the traffic control supervisor acknowledges how the shifting configuration of three-foot tube pylons could alarm motorists.