On Jan 02, 2007 at about 5:15pm or so, a pre-teenager got off the bus in the 1400 block of Route 101, Sunshine Coast Highway, and was struck by a vehicle travelling west as she crossed the road to go home. Her death was the seventh on Route 101 in the previous twelve months. This produced a wave of angst and deep frustration with safety conditions on Route 101 from one end of the Coast to the other. A road rally attended by 135 people produced $1.5 million from MOTI (Hon. Kevin Falcon) for safety upgrades. It is of interest that the rally was attended by a mother and father of a boy that was killed at the same bus stop twenty-five years or so earlier.
That road rally was addressed by, amongst others, Cst Adriaan DeJong , Sunshine Coast RCMP traffic officer, who was brand new to the Coast at the time. Lorne Lewis, SCRD director for Elphinstone, also spoke up – it was probably his appearance on two TV news programs on Jan. 8 that had precipitated MOTI’s contribution.
In April 2007, Route 101 Safety Society was registered as a non-profit society in Victoria, with Nick Proach of West Sechelt as president. Other directors came from Madeira Park, Langdale and Elphinstone. At about this time the ‘Speed Watch’ program was re-established on the Coast. Also, Route 101 Safety Society was invited to sit on the SCRD Transportation Advisory committee in a non-voting position.
In June 2007 Route 101 Safety Society held a weekend retreat at Chaster House to create a set of objectives and an action plan. These are archived on the website 101society.org. However, the overriding conclusion was that significant benefits would accrue from the construction of a second highway rather than patch up existing infrastructure.
Between MOTI, SCRD transit, RCMP traffic officers, Speed Watch and the driving public, Route 101 today appears to be safer – at least until the next death between Leek Rd and Oldershaw:
We now have bus pullouts in critical places, as well as bus shelters to encourage the use of public transit
- Centre lines and sidelines repainted
- Centre line reflectors
- High visability signage
- New traffic lights at Sunnycrest, Roberts Creek and Norwest Bay Rd.
- Significant paving of bike/pedestrian corridors
- More user friendly maintenance during black ice moments
Did you know that 16 to 18% of the traffic coming into Gibsons on a Saturday morning originates on Lower road?
There are two outstanding safety issues yet to be addressed: Selma Park road junction and Redroofs East junction.
Did you know that there are 370 driveways or other intersections between Pratt Rd and Sechelt?
Did you know that some driveways on the north side of 101 between Highland Drive and Roberts Creek Road spill gravel on to the bike lane? Especially at Oldershaw and Byng? And invariably after a 10mm rainfall.
Did you know that 101 Society polled shoppers at both Sunnycrest and Trail Bay malls regarding the need for a second highway and over 98% said ‘yes’?
ROUTE 101 VS. ROUTE 201
It is somewhat revealing that MOTI has recently changed the green and white traffic signs at major intersections from ‘Route 101’ to ‘Sunshine Coast Highway’. The cost to do this must have been substantial. And for what purpose? Then MOTI staff from off coast announce, not for the first time, that Route 201 is 25 years plus away. So this mindset is very well entrenched within government, and does reflect the existing paradigm. 101 Society has letters from both Premier Campbell and Hon. Kevin Falcon that turn down the Route 201 option flatly. When the folk in the malls responded to our question regarding the necessity for a Route 201, most added a rider: “but we will not see it in our lifetime”. So, what is needed to create a paradigm shift from pure negativity to cautious optimism? The contributing negatives to achieving a paradigm shift are prodigious:
- The nature of our government/governments
Highways has stated that it would not maintain two routes on the Coast. If Route 201 is built, Route 101 becomes the responsibility of Gibsons, Sechelt and the regional district. In other words = TAX INCREASE. To buffer this we probably need to become a collective regional municipality from Langdale to Egmont.
- Sechelt Indian Band
When route 101 Safety Society circulated its brief regarding the need for Route 201, it did make a presentation to SIB, but failed to receive a response. Without approval to get SIB onside with a route alignment that goes through Band lands, the project is dead. For that matter, we also failed to get a response from John Weston, MP.
It is anticipated that a few folk will resist changes in road alignments, traffic floes and residential impacts.
- Absence of a positive ‘Benefit/Cost’ analysis
Presently, this factor alone is more directly responsible for MOTI’s attitude than any other. Route 201, in 1998 dollars, is costed at some $133 million. (The 101society.org website used the cost of $33 million – a typo).
The original Route 201 alignment projects along the powerline above the Langdale cut and proceeds towards Sechelt. Locally it is referred to as “the Gibsons Bypass”. The Elphinstone OCP shows it as a link with Payne Road/Reed Road intersection; alternatively, it would be projected to come across the sidehill above Oceanview Dr. and connect to Highland Drive in Elphinstone. MOTI supports this alignment since it creates an “alternate” route in the event of a washout at Chaster Creek or a severe accident blocking existing Route 101 in the Elphinstone stretch. The topography on the stretch projected along the powerline above the Langdale cut will be expensive to build. Deep ravines and high ridges would have to be flattened out along the stretch above Cemetery Road.
Route 101 Safety Society advocates for a cheaper alternative. By using the existing alignment into Gibsons, but turning right on to Reed road, the Route 201 version would project the alternate route due west along West Reed then up on to the powerline towards Field Road. We can be satisfied with a road built to a single lane in each direction, adding passing lanes and left turns as needed. Route 101 becomes ‘Suncoast Drive’ and is reduced to 60 kph for local traffic use.
Once connected to Field Road and the airport, Route 201 can be linked up with that portion coming east from West Sechelt that then comes up along the powerline above Extra Foods and Chapman Creek to link up at the airport. This alternate route will provide a ten-minute trip from Sechelt to Gibsons. Thus, we deplore the label “bypass”. The improved connection between Gibsons and Sechelt will serve to integrate existing communities into one municipal structure – just think for a minute = one swimming pool, one rec. centre, one police station, one high school, a fast track from Sechelt to the ferry, easier access from Gibsons/Langdale to hospital, as well as improved tourist infrastructure from bike lanes and pedestrian routes. . . . . . . . .The president of BC Ferries endorses route 201. Why? It reduces the surge effect from ferry traffic by dispersing it through mixed routing and higher speeds.
When Wesbuild adds to its projected shopping mall at the existing IGA site in Gibsons, it will be able to attract customers from west of Sechelt. City Transfer will cut time from its deliveries. Malaspina Coach Line will take less time to get to and from the ferries. Log haulers will cut the haul time in half. Then perhaps new industries will consider coming on to the Coast. Sechelt will look even more attractive as a commercial/industrial destination.
Oh yes, and improved ground access for forest fire management as climate change increases in relevance. We will certainly obtain reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from reduced idling and trip times.
Oh yes, reduced travel times. More people will commute from further up the Coast, and more people will find it safe to bike. And, does not mention of ‘park-and-ride’ have a greater chance of becoming implemented?
ROUTE 201 COST RECOVERY OPTIONS
A paradigm shift from ‘cannot’ to ‘can do’ requires innovative cost recovery planning.
a) BC ferries will sell tickets to different destinations on the Coast. Sechelt and points west will also incur a surcharge payable to SIB
b) Taxpayers will not be impacted directly since this will be a provincial project.
c) Greater Gibsons traffic will use existing infrastructure, thus carry on as it does today.
d) Roberts Creek traffic will have a separate fare code.
With the recent expenditures on ‘Sea to Sky’ and on the Port Mann project, we could roll over and give up. The solution to Route 201 project has to originate here on the Coast. If we want it enough it can happen. My thought is that the province puts up a debenture and perhaps some federal grant to offset a portion of the construction cost. Remember one lane in each direction with passing lanes is all we need.
The folks in the various malls when we asked for feedback reacted quite separately: in Sechelt, they want rapid, unimpeded, secure access to the ferry. In Gibsons it was awareness that all Coast traffic has to pass through on just one route and the combined road rage and tailgating makes for a prime accident environment. MOTI wants alternative routing in case of road blockages.
In any event, Route 101 Safety Society is now retiring. With no money and no energy remaining, the Society will hibernate. The last straw was Davis Bay – but there will be other efforts to spend money on Route 101 when we should be allocating funds to purchase those lands needed in the construction of Route 201.
Let us continue with Speed Watch in the mean time, as well as ‘share the road’. Let those buses re-enter the traffic flow without cutting them off.
And, no roundabouts please, or blue bins between Pratt Rd and Roberts Creek Rd along Route 101.