Group pushes for Hwy. 101 changes

Transportation

Several frustrated Davis Bay residents are harnessing signatures for a petition they hope will spur the B.C. government to address traffic flow and safety concerns on Highway 101.

The group, SC101, is composed of members of the registered non-profit Davis Bay Parkway Society and is spearheaded by Robin Merriott. He said the unregistered advocacy group was formed after hearing complaints about increasing traffic along the Davis Bay Parkway and elsewhere. “Our group decided that this was a wider issue than just the parkway, but no action was being taken by anyone,” he told Coast Reporter in an email.

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The group wants 10,000 people to sign its petition so that Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons can read it in the legislature this fall. The petition asks the Legislative Assembly to “urge the government of British Columbia to consider a bypass and help find a solution for the community of the Lower Sunshine Coast regarding the many issues of Highway 101.”

Merriott said the group has identified safety concerns, such as the fact there is no alternate route around the bridge spanning Chapman Creek, as well as solutions, such as the construction of a bypass that would divert traffic away from the Davis Bay Parkway.

Another motivating factor is the April announcement of a deal between the federal government and B.C. that would see $4.1 billion spent on transportation infrastructure over the next decade. The group wants some of that money to come to the Coast.

“The Sunshine Coast tends to be left out – we tend to be forgotten, this little part of the world, but we are starting to get better known and more tourists are coming up,” said Merriott, adding that increased traffic is a major concern.

Merriott said Simons “encouraged us to get together a petition to present to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure.” A media release from the group quotes Simons as telling them, “I asked [the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure] to conduct a readiness status review of the bypass and for the first time they agreed.” Simons later told Coast Reporter, “I’m hoping that we find out where the province is with planning, etc. An informed decision about the future of our transportation system is what everyone wants, and I look forward to hearing back from the ministry in order to determine the next steps.”

Several studies have been conducted to look at the feasibility of a bypass, as well as looking at safety improvements along the highway, including a 2010 Sunshine Coast Regional District Integrated Transportation Study that proposed ideas for traffic efficiency and safety, from adding more sidewalks to extra lanes on the highway.

The group has also spoken with David Edgar, a transportation planning engineer with the ministry, because of his participation in a similar project in Nanaimo, said SC101 member Carmen Borthwick. She said some retailers in the Davis Bay are fearful a bypass would mean less business but that Edgar told her “he doesn’t recall any complaints with local businesses,” when he was working on the Nanaimo Parkway, which bypasses the town’s downtown core.

So far the group says it has collected approximately 1,000 signatures by appearing at events such as Canada Day celebrations in Sechelt’s Hackett Park. Members plan on attending events throughout the summer, including the sandcastle competition at Davis Bay on July 14 and the Gibsons Sea Cavalcade. They will also appear at Sunnycrest Mall in Gibsons on July 20 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and July 21 and 27 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

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