On Scene

Road woes and a reality check
February 14, 2010
Written by Paul Dixon

Sunday, Feb. 14

Got out early yesterday morning, long before sunrise, to check out the traffic on the Sea To Sky with the first day of competition in Whistler. It was still raining, all the way up to Whistler, and coupled with fog and low cloud in Whistler the downhill skiing scheduled for Saturday and Sunday was cancelled. Yesterday, it meant 150 or so fewer buses on the highway but it also means a scheduling crunch for event organizers later in the week, not to mention a headache for the transportation wranglers.

Whistler has the downhill skiing and sliding centre for the bobsled, luge and skeleton while the Callaghan Valley, just south of Whistler, is home to the ski-jumping, cross-country skiing and biathlon. Each of the sport venues can accommodate up to 10,000 spectators and, given the scheduling challenge, it means two, three or even four different events going on any one day. 

Not much traffic on the road at 5 a.m. and it sure was dark with no moon or stars. Apart from the occasional street light to mark an exit, there is nothing to mark to mark your way except your headlights. Around Lions Bay I was passed by two VANOC coaches doing well above the posted speed limit. One was from Orlando and the other had Huntsville, Alabama, written on the side. They were driving well beyond what they could see and I wonder what pressure they were under to get there on time.

Event though there is little traffic, there were lots of service vehicles stationed along the route already – a couple of tow trucks and even three or four police cars in the deep shadows. At Porteau Bluffs, scene of a massive rock slide in 2008, a temporary third driving lane has been created by paving over the CN train tracks beside the road. Driving over that two-kilometre piece is interesting, to say the least, and it’s one place where you exceed the posted 50 km/h at your own peril, as one young driver discovered last week after flipping mother’s car. Even with the $1 billion upgrade there are still a number of two-lane stretches along the highway where the road is literally carved out of the rock face. A third lane has been created to allow two lanes north or south, depending on the time of day and traffic flow. Shelly Fralic of the Vancouver Sun has dubbed it the “yellow stick road” in tribute to all the reflective lane markers that have been installed. 

As I pulled out of my driveway yesterday morning I flipped on the radio to catch the news, as someone was talking about how he had been training for 21 years for this day. Made me think about the degree of dedication it takes to get to the Olympics, when I have problems getting out of bed on any given day. Except it wasn’t an Olympic athlete. It was a Canadian army officer in Afghanistan. Let’s keep things in perspective. War is hell. Olympic and professional sports are many things, but they are never “war”. We can cheer for our Canadian athletes, but let’s remember the other Team Canada.

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