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Controversial highway section complete

Eagledrige adds safety for commuters: Minister Falcon

The Eagleridge Bluffs interchange officially opened Tuesday evening (April 7) with no pomp, no ceremony and no announcement.

The controversial project linking Lions Bay overland to the Upper Levels Highway had been the site of sit-ins and protests since it was first announced, and now three years later, it's been completed on time within its budgeted cost of $130 million, said Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon.

The province did not hold a ceremony to celebrate the official opening of the new route on Tuesday but it wasn't for fear of protestors, said Falcon, but because he was busy in Abbotsford announcing a major interchange improvement.

"I wanted to be a part of a ceremony, to be honest," he said. "I grew up in West Vancouver. I grew up five minutes from that area, so even during all the protests, at the end of the day, I think there were good people that had legitimate concerns."

The four-lane divided highway has improved sightlines and widened emergency pull-offs and paved shoulders to accommodate cyclists. Other upgrades include centre median barriers to prevent head-on collisions, roadside rumble strips to warn drivers and highly reflective pavement markings to help guide drivers at night and through poor weather conditions.

"It's extraordinarily much more safe than the old two-route section that wound its way around the cliff," he said. "It was one of the biggest pieces on the Sea to Sky Corridor and I think when the public drives it, they're going to see just how spectacular that is, and frankly, how much better it is than having to drive through a tunnel had that been an option."

The new section more efficiently divides traffic going to the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminals, the Eagleridge community and vehicles continuing on the highway, said Falcon.

The project was greeted by opposition right from its planning stages. Protestors, including the Eagleridge Bluffs Coalition, attempted to put an end to the overland project, which they believed harmed the area's sensitive wetlands.

The protestors pushed for an alternative tunnel route to be built to avoid impacting the Eagleridge Bluffs. But the province turned down the idea, claiming the construction of a tunnel route would cost an extra $70 million.

In May 2006, West Vancouver police arrested 23 protestors, including high profile environmental advocate Betty Krawczyk, after a month of demonstrations on the construction site.

The now 80-year-old Krawczyk, who first drew local attention for protesting logging efforts in the Elaho Valley, eventually did jail time for a contempt of court charge related to her Eagleridge Bluffs protesting. According to a statement released last month promoting the release of a new book at the Brackendale Art Gallery, "She's now currently in court still protesting the destruction of Eagleridge Bluffs while trying to make the provincial government accountable for its actions."

Falcon made assurances that environmental actions were incorporated in the project, like using the latest technologies for automated water quality monitoring on Larson Creek.

"I said from the very beginning that we would do this and employ and utilize the most up to date environmental techniques and standards to ensure that we had the best possible environmental outcomes and we have stuck to the commitment [] and we're providing a much safer, and frankly, beautiful route."

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