The new council is now sworn in for a four-year term that promises to be eventful, with big plans to solve our 50-year-old housing crisis, mend fences with First Nations, and come up with a highway solution that lets people get home on a Sunday slightly faster than walking pace.
But while Whistler was built on audacious goals, I'm a firm believer in the principle of starting small. Before we add a third lane or some much-needed traffic circles, let's fix a few of Whistler's most awkward sections of road. Here are five places that council could start (and this is just off the top of my head).
Ditch the Creekside passing lane—Whistler is the only place in the world with righthand highway passing lanes, both at Whistler Village and Creekside. I guess you could call them merge lanes but merge lanes don't usually run through intersections.
The Creekside merge always feel like an accident waiting to happen, and sloppy merging makes it a pinch-point in every southbound traffic jam. For safety's sake, I would turn the right lane north of the intersection into a turn lane into Creekside and keep the merge lane on the southbound side for cars coming from Franz's Trail and Lake Placid Road. If you take away all the impatient cars trying to pass on the right when the road splits into two, then the merge lane might actually work as advertised.
Fix whatever Is going on at the conference centre—I've lived in four provinces and driven across the country more than once, but one of the strangest intersections I've ever seen is whatever is going on in the taxi loop/conference centre area. Somehow cars can drive straight into the loop or zig and zag their way to the conference centre surface lot while vehicles heading into the other direction have two stop signs to contend with. While locals have figured it out, sort of, it's baffling to visitors. I thought a fix might be included in the $7 million bus-loop upgrades but it's as awkward as ever.
Dysfunctional Function—The well-meaning gesture to create a four-way stop at the corner of Alpha Lake Road and Millar Creek Road in Function Junction didn't pan out when government let us know that you can't stop vehicles that close to a rail line. One of the four stops was taken out to comply and now confusion reigns. Some drivers know they have the right of way, and some don't. Some drivers know to yield to westbound cars and some don't. Nobody really knows what other drivers are going to do in that intersection, so the only thing you can do is slow down and get ready to slam on the brakes.
Fifty's too swifty—Most neighbourhood roads in Whistler don't have a posted speed limit, which by default makes the speed limit 50 kilometres an hour. That's too fast in my opinion, but for the most part it works—except when you come into an unmarked, blind, hairpin corner like the one on Alpha Lake Road, Blackcomb Way, or the often-slippery downhill on Spring Creek Drive. A few signs advising people to slow down around those corners wouldn't go amiss.
It's Not a Passing Lane—Because Whistler has been unsuccessful in lobbying the province to lower the speed limit to 60 km/h between Alta Lake Road and Function, the left turn lane for Spring Creek was made extra long to give drivers time to safely slow down from 80 km/h—and you really need that extra space, especially when it gets icy. However, a lot of drivers unfamiliar with the road think it's a passing lane.
I can't tell you how many times I've looked in my mirror while waiting to turn and seen vehicles pulling into the passing lane and swerving back out again when they realize they've made a mistake. In one case, a vehicle actually passed another and veered back onto the highway, missing the back of my car by metres. A sign hung over the highway and some fresh paint would help.
These are just a few of the few weird things I've noticed. There's the psych-out right pull-out lane heading northbound to the village—a remnant of an Olympic bus stop that never fails to draw people over. There's the general confusion of the crosswalks at Northlands and Lorimer where you can't really see oncoming cars unless you pull out into the crosswalk—which is busy enough that it should probably be a light. There are the crosswalks in Creekside and Cheakamus Crossing where you can't see pedestrians because of trees and landscaping. There's the extra wide shoulder heading south into Creekside that people think is a turn lane to get to the gas station. I could go on.
Whistler plays host to around 3 million visitors a year, a substantial number of which drive here and have no idea what is going on—and have probably never seen anything like our one-of-a-kind roadways and intersections. I'm still not used to them and this is my 20th season.