The Town of Gibsons has a dilemma on its hands - how to fix the transportation issues associated with the Upper Gibsons Neighbourhood Plan.
The plan has been on the books for several years. Last June, work began on drafting the plan, and throughout the past few months, the town, consultants and the public have engaged in numerous discussions trying to work out the details to allow development to start.
For the most part, the plan is a pretty good document. But several transportation issues are clearly flawed. One example is the idea of relocating the traffic signal from Shaw Road to Sunnycrest Road.
That suggestion is ludicrous. Safety, which is already a concern on this stretch of the highway, will be put in even greater jeopardy. There won't be a proper crosswalk for students going across the street from the high school to the PetroCan. Seniors from Christenson Village wanting to shop at Sunnycrest Mall will be taking their lives in their hands crossing the street. There would be no left turn signal for service vehicles to Christenson Village. And ferry traffic would be backed up for miles with the congestion.
The Ministry of Transportation has told the Town they oppose any more lights on Gibsons Way. It's also going to cost an estimated $17 million for a potential bypass - another project talked about for years. The Town could, of course, just scrap the whole plan and not follow through. The ministry has to sign off, and if these issues aren't resolved, no development will take place. But that's not the answer either. That's not fair to the property owners - they've waited long enough to begin development. It also doesn't solve the housing shortage on the Coast by potentially wiping out 500 residential units.
So what's the solution?
For starters, the Ministry of Trans-portation has to open its eyes and ears. (We'd like to point out that no one from the ministry was on hand Tuesday to hear concerns.) All governments and residents on the Coast have to get on board and lobby the ministry to ensure the bypass project gets higher on the priority list, or at the very least, reconsider its decision about more signal lights. This is not just a Gibsons issue anymore - it's a whole Sunshine Coast issue.
Everyone, whether they live in Gibsons, Sechelt or Pender Harbour, uses this stretch of road at one time or another. These problems can't be solved overnight. It's going to take a concerted effort from everyone.
But one thing is pretty clear - the plan is going to have to be reviewed by the Town and changes made. Because as it stands now, council would be committing political suicide if they approved it.