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UBC students look at viability of high-speed rail to Whistler

Russell Hixson
UBC students look at viability of high-speed rail to Whistler
PROVINCE OF B.C. — UBC students analyzed possible routes to build a high-speed rail service from Vancouver to Whistler.

Alpine enthusiasts could one day be whizzing to Whistler for skiing via rail if University of British Columbia (UBC) student researchers get their way.

The geography students, who conducted the study as their final group project, analyzed the logistics, route options and impact rail infrastructure from Vancouver to Whistler would entail.

The group aimed to dovetail with work already being done by Mountain Valley Express (MVX), a team of researchers and planners who are looking at how to link high-speed rail throughout the Lower Mainland.

“High-speed rail would help to decrease traffic accidents, reduce carbon emissions, would cause a housing boom in the areas further away from Vancouver and would increase the work-life balance for many commuters by reducing travel time and creating cheaper and more accessible housing opportunities further away from places of work,” wrote the students in their paper.

While the students found utilizing the existing right of way along the Sea to Sky Highway could have many advantages, including reduced construction costs, the winding route around Horseshoe Bay and Squeamish could prove difficult to achieve high speeds.

The team also looked at following the Capilano Watershed and then linking up with the Sea to Sky Highway route near Furry Creek until the line reaches Whistler. But the students found this posed too much risk to watershed habitats and contained significant slopes.

Lastly, the team looked at building the line from Indian Arm to Iron Bay and then following logging routes to the Sea to Sky corridor. But they concluded that costs would be high and the remote areas would make it difficult to service. The route would also cut though several provincial parks.

The students suggested either building an entire Lower Mainland route in stages or extend the SkyTrain or West Coast express to Chilliwack, North Vancouver and Whistler.

 

Follow the author on Twitter @RussellReports.

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