Coasters looking for Highway 101 improvements should get ready for a round of provincial engagement on an alternate route study, launching by June, according to local Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Nicholas Simons.
“About a year ago it was announced that the province would be looking at other ways to make the highway corridor safer, which is the priority, and to address issues around congestion as well,” Simons told Coast Reporter in a May 16 interview. He noted that the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) together with the shíshálh Nation will be focusing on prioritization of improvements to the Coast’s major transportation route. Those could include “identification of shorter bypass areas." Simons said areas like Reed and Henry Roads near an existing highway bypass would likely be discussed.
“People will be pleased to know that the review being conducted by the ministry will include discussion around active transportation along Highway 101, where the width of road is an issue. Any new alignment of the existing corridor would incorporate minimum recommended widths, which it currently doesn’t.”
Local demands for a new highway
Sunshine Coast Highway Society (SCHS), representative Robin Merriott said that while more discussion is welcomed, piecemeal changes to the route “is just throwing money at something that is never really going to improve things. Our view is that we need a completely new road – that’s where we’re looking.”
“For the amount of money they are spending on studies and minor improvements, you could build a new highway. With $350 million you could build a new highway from Langdale to north of Sechelt.”
Merriott was critical of the province’s 2020 Highway 101 corridor study. That document, which analyzed highway traffic demands projected to 2035, contained a demoralizing statement for SCHS: that the capacity of the two-lane Highway 101 is sufficient to accommodate the growth in traffic volumes. That meant a new and higher capacity route was not on the province’s radar for the immediate future.
The group, which formed more than four years ago and continues to have more than 250 active supporters in the community continues to lobby for a new highway. Merriott said “we believe it is going to happen."
Current Coast road conditions
In the MLA’s opinion, “our roads got hammered” through the past winter. He pointed out that the area’s side roads are equally as vulnerable as the highway, and that through the late 2021 atmospheric river weather event, ditches filled and culverts were challenged and overwhelmed.
He said he was pleased with the level of response from MOTI and its contractors.
“In the spring, line painting and more patching will be done. There has been some kind of worldwide shortage of highway paint that has delayed things.”
Merriott expressed the view that more attention is needed. His comment was that “there’s a lot of potholes here, there and everywhere.”
Coast Reporter asked Simons, in advance of the interview for updates on the short-term Highway 101 improvement projects identified in the corridor study. We also requested details on how provincial road maintenance budgets for local infrastructure have been adjusted over the past five years, during times of high population growth on the Coast. The MLA said he would refer those questions to the ministry for a response. No response was received by our deadline.
No date for MOTI ministerial visit to the Coast
Simons had no update to share on the Sechelt and District Chamber of Commerce’s request to have minister Rob Fleming of MOTI visit the Coast to drive the highway and meet with the community.
“I talk to the minister fairly regularly, about this and the ferries as well. I will certainly put it to him, and until he visits, he will be hearing from me regularly. It’s always enlightening for people to see our beautiful road, even when it is not in the best of shape,” the local MLA stated.