FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. Why are Sea-to-Sky Highway improvements being undertaken at this time?
These improvements are being undertaken to improve the safety, reliability and capacity of the highway. By 2009, extensive improvements will make travel along the corridor safer for residents, commuters and tourists.
The highway improvements, to be completed before the Olympics, will serve population growth and economic development in the corridor as demand increases for resident and visitor travel and goods movement. Improvements will include highway widening and straightening, improved sightlines, passing lanes and other design innovations to reduce hazards and increase the reliability and capacity of the highway.
2. What are the goals of the Sea-to-Sky Highway Improvement Project?
The primary goals for the Sea-to-Sky Highway Improvement Project include:
- Safety improvements
- Reliability improvements
- Capacity improvements
- Project completion by late 2009
- Management of traffic flows during construction in order to minimize disruption and maximize predictability
- Completion of the project on time and on budget
3. What are the improvements planned for the Sea-to-Sky Highway?
The Sea-to-Sky Highway Improvement Project will result in the following:
- West Vancouver to Lions Bay – 4-lane sections with continuous median barrier including straightening, widening and improved sightlines (eliminating several sharp curves).
- North of Lions Bay to Murrin Park – 2, 3 and 4 lane sections; about half of this section includes improved 2 lanes, and the remaining sections include additional passing opportunities with 3 and 4 lanes. Those sections that are 4 lanes will include a median barrier to prevent crossover accidents. Sections adjacent to Murrin Park and within the community of Britannia will include improved 2-lane sections, which is consistent with community input from pre-design consultations. In Furry Creek, there will be 3 lanes moving to 4 lanes with a median barrier.
- North of Murrin Park through Squamish – 4-lane divided highway. This section will include median barriers throughout, including the addition of urban design features to the median within Squamish.
- Squamish to Whistler – 3 lanes throughout this section, including improved two-lane sections and alternating passing opportunities provided by alternating the third lane.
4. What are the highlights of the improvements?
The improvements to the Sea-to-Sky Highway will provide numerous safety benefits to motorists including:
- Highway straightening and improved sightlines on key sections of the highway
- A total of 80 kilometres of passing lanes along the 100 kilometre highway between Horseshoe Bay and Whistler
- A total of 36 kilometres of median barrier or raised median along the length of the highway
- Highly reflective pavement markings installed along the length of the highway
- Wider shoulders (1.5 metres) for improved safety and to accommodate cyclists
5. Why not make the highway 4 lanes all the way to Whistler?
Traffic volumes are much lower from Squamish to Whistler than they are in the West Vancouver to Squamish section. Currently the Sea-to-Sky Highway carries an average of 13,700 vehicles per day from Horseshoe Bay to Squamish, and 7,700 from Squamish to Whistler. Community feedback from Whistler as well as other municipalities along the corridor supported 3 lanes with an alternating passing lane and not a 4-lane highway north of Squamish.
6. Will I be able to cycle on the Sea-to-Sky Highway? What about cycling during construction?
When complete, improved cycling access along the corridor will be provided by 1.5 metre shoulders protected by shoulder rumble strips through those sections of the corridor where improvements are being carried out.
Work zones will have reduced shoulder widths, which will impact the travel of pedestrians and cyclists. Construction personnel will assist cyclists through restricted areas where cyclists will not be able to travel with the traffic flow — i.e. steep grades.
The designated paths will be protected and whenever possible separated from work zone hazards. Communications will be sent to bicycle and park trail organizations through the Provincial Cycling Communication Coordinator with information and updates on work zone conditions. In addition, clear signage will be posted advising motorists, cyclists and pedestrians what are the designated paths and where a vehicular lane is to be shared by cars and bicycles.
7. How much will the improvements to the Sea-to-Sky Highway cost?
The estimated capital project cost for the improvement project is $600 million. These improvements will meet population growth and travel demands until 2020, with additional improvements phased in as required over approximately 20 years.
8. Who are the S2S Transportation Group and what is their role in the Sea-to-Sky Highway improvements?
The S2S Transportation Group (S2S) is the Contractor that will design, build, operate and maintain the Sea-to-Sky Highway. S2S is accountable for delivering a safe and reliable highway through a 25-year performance-based contract. The Ministry of Transportation will oversee the project, ensuring that all specifications are appropriately met, such as highway width, number of lanes, safety requirements, sightline requirements, signage, traffic management and commitments to communities. The S2S Transportation Group was selected to provide the best-value highway improvements through a competitive selection process and rigorous evaluation of proposals.
The Ministry of Transportation has utilized the private sector in designing, building and maintaining highways for decades. Experience with similar projects world-wide suggests this type of arrangement results in better project definition, reduced delays and more financial control, including fewer cost over-runs.
9. Are the communities along the Sea-to-Sky Highway being consulted about the highway improvements?
The Ministry of Transportation (MoT) has consulted extensively about the scope of highway improvements over the last four years with communities, businesses and residents along the corridor.
As the Sea-to-Sky Highway Improvement project proceeds through various design stages and ultimately into construction, communities and key stakeholders will continue to be involved in a comprehensive consultation program. The consultation stages include:
- Project Definition Consultation (completed in 2002)
- Pre-Design Consultation (completed in 2003-2005)
- Preliminary Design Consultation (CURRENT STAGE)
- Detailed Design Consultation (scheduled for 2006-2007)
For more detailed information about community consultation, click here.
10. How is the Sea-to-Sky Highway Improvement Project addressing environmental impacts?
The Sea-to-Sky Highway Improvement Project was subject to a harmonized environmental assessment process at both federal and provincial levels, and received a federal screening decision and provincial environmental assessment certificate in June 2004, allowing the Project to proceed. The Project must comply with applicable provincial and federal environmental guidelines and policies that are current at the time of design and construction, including obtaining all necessary permits and approvals. The Project’s environmental manager and staff develop environmental management plans and meet with the regulatory agencies to discuss how and when work will be conducted in environmentally sensitive areas.
For more information about the Sea-to-Sky Highway Improvement Project and the environment, please click here.
11. What environmental guidelines and procedures are the Project following to ensure the environment is protected?
The project complies with applicable provincial and federal environmental guidelines and policies that are current at the time of design and construction. The Sea-to-Sky Highway Improvement Project has a multi-disciplinary team of qualified environmental specialists responsible for managing and monitoring all environmental issues associated with the Project, whose responsibilities include:
- Identifying and obtaining all necessary Permits, Licenses, and Approvals prior to commencing construction
- Developing, implementing, maintaining and updating a plan that describes how the work will be undertaken in environmentally sensitive areas
- Conducting environmental monitoring of construction works, including post construction monitoring; The environmental monitor will ensure the protection of the environment, that mitigation measures are appropriately implemented and facilitate communication between the Contractor, environmental agencies, and the ministry
- Water quality monitoring during construction
- Restoring and re-vegetating those portions of the existing highway that will be discontinued for road purposes and will not form part of the new highway
- Spill contingency planning and response
- Environmental construction procedures include traffic flagging, monitoring, education of personnel and pre-construction meetings
- Monitoring and mitigating as required potentially acid generating and metal leaching materials and acid rock drainage
- Developing a waste management plan that includes measures that will be implemented to reduce, re-use and recycle solid waste, as well as the disposal plan for solid, non-hazardous waste.
12. What environmental specialists are on the team monitoring this work?
The Project has a multi-disciplinary team of environmental specialists responsible for managing and monitoring all environmental issues. They include specialists in the following disciplines:
||Forest Management (arbourist)
13. What are you doing to reduce wildlife/vehicle collisions on the highway?
The Contractor will develop, in consultation with the environmental agencies, measures to limit wildlife mortality associated with vehicle collisions. Measures might include culvert or bridge design refinements to accommodate wildlife passage, identification of locations for wildlife signs, and concrete roadside barriers with enlarged scuppers (holes) to facilitate small animal passage. Special attention will be paid to developing mitigation measures for off-alignment section
Also, the Contractor will be installing bear proof garbage containers at popular pullouts and any proposed safety rest areas.
14. What is being done to protect bird and animal habitats and sensitive ecosystems?
A Wildlife Mitigation Plan is being developed that includes measures to minimize the loss of and mitigate potential impacts to red- and blue-listed plant communities, dry arbutus habitat, and sensitive components of ecosystems. The plan will include: a survey of sensitive ecosystem polygons that are within proposed clearing and grubbing lines to determine if the sensitive ecosystem component is at risk; measures to delineate buffers around sensitive ecosystem components; measures to control the introduction of invasive and non-native species; and water quality protection measures. These plans will be submitted for environmental agency acceptance before work commences.
- Sensitive wildlife habitats will be demarcated on construction drawings and in the
- field, identifying measures such as culvert crossing locations to minimize impacts to wildlife and
- describe wildlife enhancement measures, including restoration-planning measures to benefit wildlife.
- The plan will identify any timing restrictions and describe wildlife salvage procedures.
All critical and sensitive wildlife habitats and ecosystems (e.g., nest trees, red- and blue-listed plant communities, wetlands will be demarcated on construction drawings.
Wildlife passage through existing wildlife corridors such as ravines and stream channels will be maintained throughout the duration of the construction. All construction personnel will be required to report wildlife sightings that may impact or be impacted by construction-related activities. The contractor's wildlife specialist will provide monitoring during key animal activity periods and/or where wildlife may be impacted by construction activities.
15. How will you manage traffic during construction?
One of the key goals of the Sea-to-Sky Highway Improvement Project is to minimize disruptions and maximize predictability for travellers. This includes no highway closures or major delays:
- Friday noon through Sunday 10 PM
- Weekday commute hours (6 – 9 AM and 5 – 8 PM)
- Canadian or U.S. statutory holidays
- No daytime closures mid-June to mid-September
- No daytime stoppages December - February
Traffic delays will be coordinated between the construction segments. Highway closures will be implemented at set times and publicized well in advance.
The Ministry of Transportation consulted extensively over a three-year period with Sea-to-Sky corridor communities, employers, emergency response agencies, goods movers, schools, tourism providers and others to determine the closure and delay schedule. The public’s daily, weekly and seasonal traffic patterns were used to establish the least disruptive closure and delay schedule possible. For up-to-date information on the closure and delays please click here.
16. Where can I find construction closure and delay information?
Current information that includes locations and times of highway construction delays or closures is available on the Project website or through the toll-free information line:
- 1-877- 4SAFE 99 (1-877- 472-3399) toll free in Canada,
or from outside Canada, call 604 815-4010 (long distance charges apply)
A text message Road Alert service is also available. Details on how to subscribe to this service can be found under "Closures and Delays Schedule" on the website www.seatoskyimprovements.ca or by visiting www.theweathernetwork.com/roadalerts
A key project goal is to manage traffic flow during construction to minimize disruption and maximize the predictability of closures and delays for highway users. The project’s travel information tools are regularly updated with the most current information, and are based on three layers of scheduling:
17. Why do you need road closures?
Some work cannot be done safely with traffic in the area, and some construction activities require daylight. In order to undertake these improvements safely and to maintain the construction schedule so as to complete the project in 2009, closures will be scheduled when the traffic volumes are at their lowest.
18. What measures will the Project take to reduce noise during construction?
The Project is keeping the community well informed of the nature and time limits of the planned construction work and of the effort to be made to minimize the noise produced or received in the community. The Project will hold meetings with community representatives affected to identify the noisiest construction activities that must be conducted within each community and to discuss the extent to which these activities can be conducted during normal daytime working hours.
The Project is educating construction personnel about particular noise issues and associated equipment operation. All efforts are being taken to avoid or reduce construction noise at the source through the appropriate operation, modification or maintenance of construction equipment and processes.
Construction activity of the noisiest activities (e.g., rock drilling, pile driving) will be conducted, to the extent possible, within the daytime construction period.
There is a Noise Control and Mitigation Plan to minimize the disturbance to adjacent residential enclaves and communities. The Project will conduct follow-up noise monitoring within one year of completion to verify the accuracy of traffic noise projections and effectiveness of noise mitigation techniques.
19. How are you improving visibility on the highway at night?
The Sea-to-Sky Highway improvements include increasing visibility at night. Some features include the addition of post and barrier mounted reflectors as well as surface mounted lane demarcation reflectors. In addition, the use of highly reflective pavement markings—white on the shoulder, yellow for the centre line—and the use of rumble strips for inattentive drivers should make night time driving safer.
20. Won't people just drive faster if you straighten the highway?
Speeding is an enforcement issue and the Project is working with the local police and RCMP to improve enforcement opportunities along the highway.
Improvements to the Sea-to-Sky Highway will make the corridor safer, more reliable and improve capacity.