By Alison Taylor
The 2010 Games could speed up a decision on whether or not to resurface the day skier lots and implement pay parking.
In the municipality’s draft financial plan more than $4.3 million has been set aside for the work, with construction slated to take place in 2008 and 2009.
“It’s really not absolutely necessary to upgrade the parking lots for the Olympics but it is something that would be good to have done,” said Brian Barnett, the municipality’s general manager of environmental services.
“The Olympics tend to be the catalyst for accelerating infrastructure.”
Barnett points to the new B.C. Hydro sub-station in Function Junction as an example of infrastructure upgraded on a faster timeline as a result of the Games.
Upgrading the day skier lots has been on the municipal agenda for several years. The municipality, however, does not own the land; it is still provincial property, located in the village flood plain.
“We wouldn’t spend money on somebody else’s property,” said Barnett, adding that there are ongoing negotiations taking place with the province.
Those negotiations have been taking place for several years, he added, with no definitive decisions to date.
The $4.3 million plan calls for resurfacing, lighting and landscaping the day lots closest to the base of the mountains — Lots 1, 2 and 3. The budget would also allow for minor improvements to Lots 4 and 5.
Altogether those lots have the capacity to hold 2,500 vehicles. The upgrades would allow an additional 300 vehicles in the area.
The work may not involve paving the pot-holed muddy lots, rather using materials such as hollow bricks that would help with the drainage and meet higher environmental standards.
Barnett said the same high design standards used in the village would apply to the parking lots as they are seen as a pivotal part of the arrival and welcoming experience for guests.
“I think the number one thing is we’d like to bring them up to a better standard and so getting the investment to fix them up and pave them is great,” agreed Dave Brownlie, chief operating officer of Intrawest Mountain Resorts Canada.
The lots, he added, are very important not just to mountain operations but also to all village businesses.
Charging a fee to park has long been on the work plan as part of the decade old Transportation Advisory Group (TAG) report.
Pay parking would allow money to be funneled back into public transportation, and an enhanced service, along with the disincentive of having to pay to park, could get more people out of their cars and using the buses.
“We’re not building more parking lots, we’re not building more roads or wider roads or road capacity,” said Barnett. “The intent is to move people out of their cars.”
When asked if pay parking would hurt business, Brownlie said it wouldn’t apply to every lot and there would still be some free parking.
“We haven’t made any commitments one way or the other but ultimately we want to live within our 2020 framework and improve sustainability within our resort,” said Brownlie. “The parking is a vehicle obviously to help support that.”
Barnett reiterated that the multi-million dollar project is not essential for the Games.
“It’s more just the quality of the area,” he explained. “If they’re full of mud and potholes, it’s certainly not as nice as if it’s resurfaced and the lighting is there and nice pedestrian walkways.”
The day lots will be crucial real estate for the Games whether the upgrades take place or not.
“The parking lots are just such valuable property for the Games that there’s different options still being considered for it,” said Barnett.
One of those options is that the lots would be the transportation hub for the Games.
The resurfacing project has increased more than $400,000 in the last year. In the 2006 financial plan it was budgeted at $3.9 million. Barnett said the increase is due to escalating construction costs. The budget shows the project will be 60 per cent funded from the transportation works charges reserve, with the remainder coming from external grants.
There will be a public consultation period if the municipality moves ahead with the project.