The scenic ‘Sea-to-Sky’ Highway with ocean vistas, soaring mountains and dramatic waterfalls is the main transportation link between the city of Vancouver Canada and the popular ski resort town of Whistler. Locally it was known as the ‘killer highway’ due to its history of accidents caused by driver negligence, landslides and rockslides. It became the subject of much scrutiny and discussion after Vancouver was awarded the 2010 Winter Olympics.
In the end, the province chose to leverage the international venue as an opportunity to improve the safety, reliability and capacity of the 100 km (approximately 62 mile) hazardous roadway. From procurement to completion, it took 6 years.
The last time Hubby and I drove to Whistler was June of 2008 – at the height of the road construction. What were we thinking? I remember stopping in one town where they had blasting schedules posted everywhere. I was frightened and awe struck at the same time when our vehicle inched its way through a freshly created canyon carved into the side of a mountain. There was debris and boulders everywhere.
The project included construction of 48 new bridges/interchanges, 219 retaining walls, more than 2 million cubic meters of earthwork and 450,000 tons of asphalt paving. It also involved geotechnical-related activities that provided back slopes in soil and rock, slope stabilizations, retention systems, bridge foundations, and embankments. The changes to the natural landscape were enormous.
Complementing the actual road construction was a multi-faceted environmental program. This included but was not limited to the protection of wetlands and fish-bearing watercourses. 16 new wildlife passageways were built to make it safer for animals to cross the road. There were restrictions on blasting and clearing of vegetation during various bird breeding periods and continuously in the vicinity of heron, raptor and eagle nests.
Charli Mills’ May 11th Flash Fiction Challenge post raised the following questions for me: Is erosion no more than another word for change? Is it inevitable? Yes. It is a cycle, played out on so many different levels – a cycle of destruction followed by something new, always with the hopes that what comes next is better than what was.
The Carrot Ranch fiction challenge was to write a story in 99 words (no more, no less) about the power of erosion. My adventures along the ‘Sea-to-Sky’ highway in 2008 inspired this contribution.
“Damn it!” yelled Millie as she entered the coffee shop.
“What?” bellowed Bill from behind the counter.
“Can’t hear ya!” He pointed to the coffee maker with a quizzical look on his face.
Millie nodded – conversation out of the question. The construction crews were still detonating their series of explosives. Apparently the mountainside needed a shave before the highway could be expanded.
“Thanks,” said Millie and grabbed her coffee.
A mammoth roar reverberated through the town. The floor shook as Millie ran to the window. She screamed – a huge dust cloud rolling menacingly towards her.