Compared to the Lower Mainland, driving in Squamish has been relatively stress-free over the years. But with the rapidly expanding maze of bottlenecks and traffic congestion, especially in the downtown core, some of the District’s traffic flow plans will require recalibration.
Eight years ago, the 2031 District Wide Multi-Modal Transportation Study addressed a wide range of transportation connectivity options. One of the recommendations was the reduction of single-occupancy vehicle use during peak time weekdays to no more than 50 per cent of total trips within 20 years. But the prospect of realizing that ambitious goal will be challenging for many residents who rely on the convenience of their personal vehicles for local access and travel to out of town job sites. According to the study, the level of traffic at major intersections was “generally good” and the local road network will “function adequately with only a few major additions up to 2031.”
In 2014, a report presented by the Sea to Sky Forestry Society to the District’s Select Committee on Transportation recommended paving Bailey Street to the BC Rail yards would offer a downtown entrance traffic solution, while alleviating congestion on Buckley Avenue.
More recently, the 2017 Downtown Truck Route Study concluded that despite an increase in commercial vehicles accessing major construction projects, with a few enhancements the existing route along Loggers Lane should be considered in the short-term. A truck traffic exclusive Western Route, also called the “Seventh Avenue Connector” was not favoured due to various constraints, including significant cost implications and the negative impact on residential developments located on either side of Bailey Street. A future crossing of the Mamquam Blind Channel at Pemberton Avenue to provide a secondary downtown road connection was recommended in the medium and long-term. Another long-term alternative was the Westminster crossing, south of Vancouver Street.
But given the growing volume of traffic from downtown commercial operations and residential developments, those alternatives may have to be fast-tracked along with other viable options.
Larry Murray, the former chair of the Squamish Oceanfront Development Corporation board, has offered a measure of out-of-the-box insight related to the truck congestion issue. In a post on the District’s online comments page, he suggested that since Squamish Terminals generates the lion’s share of downtown truck traffic, relocating that operation across the harbour to Watts Point would place it near road and rail access at the same time as ease commercial traffic flow in the downtown core.
Last June, municipal officials requested proposals for a downtown Squamish transportation analysis and entrance study. According to Gary Buxton, General Manager of Community Planning and Infrastructure, the project is still in the early stages and awaiting data collection related to population and economic growth projections.
Everything considered, the potential for vehicular gridlock is reaching a tipping point and providing timely solutions to the problem should be one of the District’s highest priorities.