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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.



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To head north on the Sea to Sky Highway, the Strachan Point residents must first drive four km south to Ansell Place to turn around. They must overshoot their former turnoff by 1.5 kilometres to an Ocean Point Drive turnaround to gain access to their home on Strachan Point Road. But the left-hand turn, on a decline, is dangerous.

"We almost got hit the other night because we couldn’t see headlights of southbound cars over the barrier," she says. Spears says the highway feels less safe now than before.

Finding a solution for Strachan Point residents is just one responsibility for site project director Rob Ahola. As the engineer representing the province, Ahola is the go-to guy. He oversees the Kiewit contract – making sure what should get done does get done, like investigating if a median is obstructing left-turning motorists, before giving Kiewit the go-ahead for the next phase. He says an island will shortly replace barriers that obstruct sight lines for motorists trying to turn left at Ocean Point.

A civil engineer who got his start repairing CN Rail bridges when he was 16, Ahola says the Sea to Sky construction project is the most challenging he’s ever encountered. With Howe Sound and the rail line on one side and bulky rock faces on the other, geography means construction crews have limited room in which to manage traffic.

"We’ve straightened out a lot of corners but it’s not a straight highway," Ahola says and maintains that’s a good thing. He says curves force drivers to pay attention and replacing substandard passing lanes – some that end dangerously on curves – will allow drivers more flexibility when they know an opportunity to pass is just ahead.

Heading back to Brunswick Pit with a full load, a motorist that can’t wait for a passing lane veers around the rock truck that Tia Alexandria is driving. Although she does slow at merges to allow vehicles to pass, she’s always amazed at how fast and what risks drivers will take, like trying to pass on the right-hand side, to get around her. She wonders out loud what will be the reality of a straighter highway?

"It’s got that freeway vibe. It’s got the four lanes and people are pretty excited about being able to go a little faster – it’s something."

McArthur puts it another way.

"You live way out in the ‘burbs to take advantage of the available recreational activities, plus maybe lower taxation, and yet you want to have all these amenities that will speed you back into a working situation. What’s the bloody hurry?"