News Local

Sunshine Coast link faces long road

By Eric MacKenzie

The provincial government is expected to issue a report on the possibility of a road link between the Lower Mainland and Sunshine Coast before the end of 2016.
GETTY IMAGES

The provincial government is expected to issue a report on the possibility of a road link between the Lower Mainland and Sunshine Coast before the end of 2016. GETTY IMAGES

There will be a lot of factors to consider as Jordan Sturdy begins meeting with municipalities, First Nations and other stakeholders about the possibility of a road linking the Sunshine Coast with the Lower Mainland in the coming weeks.

The West Vancouver-Sea to Sky MLA has been tasked with hosting initial consultations for the province’s Sunshine Coast Fixed Link Feasibility Study.

“I’ve had this conversation my whole life, practically,” said Sturdy, who grew up in Vancouver but has family connections to Roberts Creek going back decades.

“Certainly, the preliminary feedback we’ve received from people on the Sunshine Coast has been positive in terms have having a look at this and having an informed discussion.”

But that discussion will encompass a lot of options and perspectives to weigh. Possible links between the two regions could include bridges along the coast or connecting a variety of islands or a highway route that runs north of Jervis Inlet, and all options will have to be compared against existing ferry service.

Where a road would link up — to the Upper or Lower Sunshine Coast — is another question. The group Third Crossing Society has been lobbying for a road from the Squamish Valley to Powell River for years. But Sturdy said he’s also aware of mountain bikers who have been travelling between Squamish and Sechelt using forest and resource roads with a bit of hiking in between.

“People are clearly doing it on bicycles, so it’s (a possibility) to look at that,” said Sturdy.

What’s more, linking the two areas would virtually guarantee increased traffic on sections of the Sea to Sky Highway, an issue that Sturdy said “cannot be ignored,” particularly with projections of Squamish’s population doubling in the next 20 years, a changing economy in that community and further developments in the Sea to Sky Corridor potentially taking shape.

“But there are a whole variety of different pressures on Highway 99 capacity, and this could just add to that,” he said. “It’s certainly something we have to keep an eye on.”

Engineering firm R.F. Binnie and Associates will be conducting high-level assessments of the potential links. Their work and consultation results will be reported back to Victoria, with a report expected back on findings before the end of the year.