Despite Transportation Minister Clare Trevena’s curt dismissal of a 6,400-signature petition calling for a new highway between Langdale and Sechelt, the pressure on the B.C. government to take the community’s concerns seriously continues.
This week, Gibsons Mayor Bill Beamish added his voice to the mix with a letter to Trevena requesting her ministry embark on a consultation and planning process for safety upgrades on Highway 101 and the eventual building of a bypass.
In addition to linking traffic between ferry terminals in Langdale and Earls Cove, Highway 101, the mayor points out in bullet form, is a local road for residents of Gibsons, Elphinstone, Roberts Creek and Sechelt, a transit and school bus route, a bicycle route, a heavily used truck route, a tourism route, a commercial-business route, an emergency route and an evacuation route.
“Minister,” he says, “Highway 101 is no longer adequate or safe to provide all of these services at once.”
The solution for Vancouver Island was to construct an inland route “to move traffic safely and efficiently” between Nanaimo and Campbell River while providing an alternate scenic route with access to smaller communities like Parksville and Qualicum. “Their highway design works, while ours does not,” Beamish says in the letter.
His call to action echoes similar pleas made in the summer of 2006 after a fatal accident on Highway 101, just north of Havies Road in Davis Bay, stopped traffic in both directions for more than five hours on a Saturday afternoon.
Cam Reid, who was then mayor of Sechelt and was one of many motorists stuck in traffic that day, said at the time that the transportation ministry needed to “dust off” the bypass plans first initiated 14 years earlier, in 1992.
“The safety issues and the congestion have to press the province to do something sooner rather than later,” Reid was quoted in Coast Reporter. “When an accident like this happens on the highway, it creates frustration and chaos for many. A bypass would give us other transportation options and it’s time the provincial government starts looking at this.”
The public was up in arms that July, in large part because two high school students had been killed just weeks earlier on a dangerous curve of the highway, yet another 13 years has passed without even the most rudimentary steps taken to lay the groundwork for a bypass route.
Sitting in her perch in Victoria, Trevena looks at Highway 101’s safety performance and deems it acceptable. She has no awareness of the close calls, near misses and accidents waiting to happen that constitute daily reality on the Sunshine Coast.
Her tepid response to this critical concern is disappointing, to say the least.