Liberal candidate promises $50 million in bypass funding

Powell River-Sunshine Coast Liberal candidate Sandra Stoddart-Hansen says she’s secured a commitment from party leader Andrew Wilkinson that a B.C. Liberal government would “begin a first phase of construction of the Bypass with a $50 million investment.”

Hansen has highlighted the issue before, including a commitment to work to get a bypass built, but her comments to Coast Reporter this week were the first mention of a specific dollar figure.

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In a feature interview for Coast Reporter Radio, Stoddart-Hansen said improving the highway is important to residents throughout the riding. “When they’re transiting from Powell River down to catch the ferry at Langdale, the importance of getting there efficiently and effectively is of interest to them as well.”

She said she approached Wilkinson because she “felt that I would want to have assurances that we could begin to work on this important issue.”

She likened the overall idea to Vancouver Island’s Inland Island Highway, which was built to parallel the original highway from Nanaimo to the north end of the Island.

“The communities along the shoreline have become beautiful tourist destinations and are really accessible for people using scooters or bicycles, walkers or joggers and they’ve really made a beautiful scenic route,” she said.

“That’s my vision for the Coast, that we can have a highway that will take our through traffic out of our communities and bring our recreational and personal travel onto that [existing] highway and reduce the speed limit so it’s safer.”

Although Stoddart-Hansen was specific about the amount to be invested, she said other details, such as where the bypass would be, would have to be determined later.

But, she added, “it seems logical that it would be appropriate to fix that problem of coming up that big hill [at Langdale] and having huge traffic congestion at the top of the hill and then traffic snaking all in and around Gibsons.”

A Highway 101 bypass was not included among the infrastructure promises outlined in the Liberal party platform, which was released Oct. 13 and pledged $30.9 billion in “the biggest infrastructure investment in B.C. history.”

When the NDP government released the Highway 101 corridor study in early September, it promised to undertake a study of a bypass or alternative route between Gibsons and Sechelt.

NDP incumbent Nicholas Simons told Coast Reporter he’s “not sure how seriously” people should take the Liberal commitment without seeing what $50 million could actually build.

“It would be my job to continue to advocate and work with the government to pursue the goal [the NDP government] had already set, which is to start discussions around at least the Gibsons bypass,” he said.

Kim Darwin of the Greens said, “The Sunshine Coast has larger infrastructure priorities for our community than building a multi-lane highway through the forest.”

“We've had enough studies that show with the right targeted projects and political advocacy, we can fix safety concerns on our existing highway and create secondary routes to divert traffic in the event of road closures,” Darwin said.

“I question if funds are spent on an inland highway, what funds will be available to repair and maintain the highway that we use to get to and from our businesses and shopping facilities on a daily basis?”

– With files from Sophie Woodrooffe

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