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SLRD asks for more highway patrol between Whistler and Pemberton

he Squamish-Lillooet Regional District is asking the RCMP for more resources on Highway 99...

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The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District is asking the RCMP for more resources on Highway 99, with a focus on the stretch of road between Whistler and Pemberton.

At Monday’s regional district board meeting, members learned there were nine fatalities on that section of highway last year alone.

These statistics are higher than other areas of Highway 99, said Pemberton Mayor Elinor Warner.

She put a resolution to the board that the RCMP put more resources between Whistler and Pemberton and in Area C of the regional district, particularly in light of the rapid population growth in the Pemberton area.

Warner’s request came just days after a serious accident on the highway, about 13 kilometres north of Whistler near the local racetrack.

Just before 3 p.m. on Friday, April 23, a 19-year-old driver in a BMW was travelling northbound in excess of the speed limit and skidded into the oncoming lane, hitting a motorcyclist.

The motorcyclist was airlifted to Vancouver and was in surgery the following day after sustaining serious injuries. He was last reported in stable condition.

The 19-year-old driver was holding a ‘New’ drivers licence and was arrested for Dangerous Driving Causing Bodily Harm. He will make his first court appearance in early August.

The RCMP Traffic Analyst Section was still investigating the accident early this week.

The two Squamish board directors, Raj Kahlon and Corinne Lonsdale, who was sitting in for Mayor Ian Sutherland, expressed concerns that Warner’s request could reduce service in other areas of the highway.

Lonsdale said asking for more service between Whistler and Pemberton could take away from the service between Whistler and Lions Bay.

"I’m not comfortable taking resources from one area and putting it into another," she said.

They asked for an amendment that would see additional services between Pemberton and Squamish.

They could not get support at the board table for this amendment.

Russ Oakley, director of Area A, said the amendment effectively watered down the resolution and took away any potential impact for the highway services between Whistler and Pemberton.

Whistler RCMP Staff Sergeant Hilton Haider explained that although there was a highway presence on that section of roadway, the problem continues to be drivers ignoring the traffic laws.

Almost all the accidents happen late at night and involve speeding or alcohol, he said. He quickly pointed out that four of the nine fatalities happened during the Rutherford Creek Bridge washout and did not involve any of the usual factors.

While highway patrols help, there is still an over abundance of speeding and drinking and driving, he said.

"Speed is of the essence," he said.

"People are still speeding even if there is a police car."

Still, he admitted that adding resources would help solve this problem.

"It always does," he said simply.

Haider said there are currently six officers who make up the Sea to Sky Traffic Services and they are dispatched out of Squamish. They are charged with covering the entire area from just north of Horseshoe Bay to the south end of Duffey Lake. Sometimes there are only one or two on a shift at one time.

In addition, the officers in the local detachments also patrol the highway.

At the board meeting Councillor Nick Davies, who was sitting in for Mayor Hugh O’Reilly as Whistler’s representative, came up with a resolution that was supported by the majority of the board. "It sounds to me like we all want to go in the same direction," he said.

He proposed that the board ask the RCMP for additional resources on Highway 99 between Squamish and Whistler, placing a high priority in the area between Whistler and Pemberton and Electoral Area C.

The board supported this idea, despite opposition from some members.

Now the RCMP will put in a request to the province for more resources.

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