The group behind a 6,400-signature petition delivered to Transportation Minister Claire Trevena in March says the minister’s follow-up to their request for a second route from Langdale to Sechelt falls short.
In an email sent to SC101 Committee chair Robin Merriott just a few days after their meeting in Victoria, Trevena noted the ministry has already studied the concept of a new highway route between Gibsons and Sechelt.
“The review of traffic volumes did not support the significant cost to build this highway. Extensive environmental concerns and the interest of the Sechelt First Nation would also be primary considerations,” Trevena wrote.
“We continue to monitor traffic volumes and development in the area, as well as work with the local communities, the Sechelt First Nation and private developers to identify future safety and capacity improvements on the existing Highway 101 corridor.”
In a response, copied to Coast Reporter, Merriott said the email from Trevena “clearly fails to acknowledge the concerns of over 6,400 signatories of the petition presented to the Legislature on March 27, 2019. Also, it appears to mirror a letter sent by your office to Sechelt Council over six months ago.”
Trevena’s email to the group went on to cite the $5.3 million invested in improvements along Highway 101 in the past decade. “Our data shows that during this time, the safety performance on this route has improved significantly, with a 26 per cent reduction in the severity and frequency of collisions… More than seventy per cent of the highway between Gibsons and Earls Cove has now been widened to better accommodate cyclists and pedestrians.”
Merriott countered that “spending on maintenance and minor upgrades is not relevant to the issue at hand and does nothing to resolve the real traffic issues impacting us. Simply put, the Southern Sunshine Coast needs a highway! By any definition, the existing two-lane road from Langdale to Earls Cove, with hundreds of private and public access points and virtually no options for passing or safe areas for bicycles and pedestrians over its 80 km length, is not a highway.”
Merriott said the SC101 Committee challenges the minister to ensure focus on “optimistic growth projections and long term solutions” and extends an invitation to Trevena to come to the Sunshine Coast this summer to see the situation for herself.
The issue of a second route, or bypass, also came up at the Sechelt Chamber of Commerce’s recent breakfast event with Mayor Darnelda Siegers.
When asked why highway improvements and a Sechelt connection to a new highway route are not mentioned in council’s strategic plan, Siegers said it has been on the agenda for meetings between Sechelt council and the shíshálh Nation chief and council.
“I have had conversations with Chief [Warren] Paull,” Siegers said. “Any bypass that is coming through Sechelt needs the shíshálh Nation to align with us on what the route will be. Any route coming through here has to go through their land… It’s a conversation that I think we need to have now, because unless we look at it now, we won’t set that land aside and actually have a route that could be used.”
Siegers said she expects potential bypass routes will be part of the land use planning work the shíshálh Nation is involved in with the province.
She also said she’s awaiting copies of the old engineering studies for highway routes in the area for her and council to review.
According to Trevena, the “corridor review” of Highway 101 between Langdale and Sechelt will be completed later this year and lead to “a strategic plan that will prioritize incremental improvements to address traffic and safety concerns along the highway.”