Directors agree to lobby for new highway

The Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) board will be writing the province in support of building a new highway from Langdale to Sechelt and requesting a meeting with Transportation Minister Claire Trevena.

The board’s July 11 motion, following a request from the Sunshine Coast Highway Society, was not unanimous – Roberts Creek’s Andreas Tize voted against it.

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“Without a more thorough community consultation as to what it is and what we want and how we want it, I don’t think I can support this highway,” said director Tize during discussion. There are people on both sides of the issue in Roberts Creek, he said, and it would be premature to move ahead without seeking public input.

Tize made the comments after hearing a presentation from Robin Merriott, spokesperson for the Highway Society, which recently changed its name from SC101.

The society wants the SCRD’s support for “a new, state of the art, spectacular scenic highway from Langdale to Sechelt” following a route mapped out in 2009 for a four-lane highway following the BC Hydro right of way along its major transmission line.

In March, a petition asking for improvements to the existing highway was submitted to the B.C. Legislature.

Tize told Merriott that since the petition didn’t mention a request for a new highway, there is no “formal support” for the idea at this point. “I don’t think I can with good conscience say, yes we need a new four-lane highway going across the top of Roberts Creek without talking to my constituents first and getting a more formal consultation,” he said.

Gibsons director Bill Beamish said he supported the idea of a highway, but also wanted more public input, while Elphinstone director Donna McMahon said the highway should be considered as part of a regional growth strategy, and that the construction of the highway shouldn’t interfere with efforts to make Highway 101 safer.

West Howe Sound director Mark Hiltz reminded directors of the approximately 50 years it took from inception to completion for the Langdale bypass. “I almost find it a bit of a distraction to talk about a four-lane highway,” he said, suggesting short-term fixes should be prioritized.

Sechelt director Darnelda Siegers argued it was more important for the SCRD to show its support for a highway to get things moving.

“At this point there is no plan on the books here, provincially, or anywhere else. This is just saying that we recognize there is an issue and we’re willing to put it forward to the province to say something needs to be done,” she said.

“In Sechelt we’re totally in support of this and I see the impact rurally as well… We’ve had a number of fatalities up and down the Coast. I think it is time to signal to the province that as governments here on the Sunshine Coast we know something needs to be done and we want them to look at it.”

At the end of the meeting, after the discussion and vote, former mayor John Henderson told directors the society isn’t necessarily interested in a four-lane highway. “The highway society has not specified four lanes, and we certainly haven’t used the word ‘super’ as in ‘superhighway.’”

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