By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Feb. 25, 2012
Is $2.95 million of tax payers’ money justified for an overpass that would connect a few hundred residents from the Totem Hall to the casino.
Absolutely, says Squamish Nation Chief Gibby Jacob.
And that is what he told the ministry of transportation and infrastructure officials when they walked in to negotiate.
Across from their table sat Squamish Nation representatives , including chief Jacob.
Jacob made one thing very clear at the beginning of the negotiations.
“We said show us good faith on this one. If not then there is the door,” Jacob said.
“Well, it’s done,” the officials said, eager to please.
“That was how quick it was,” Jacob told the Squamish Reporter.
And that’s how the Squamish Nation got the overpass, a $2.95 million amenity for which provincial tax payers will foot the bill.
While constructing the new highway, the province realised it would need some portion of the Squamish Nation land for a perfect right of way.
When they came knocking, Squamish Nation knew they had a good leverage for an overpass.
“We are good negotiators,” Jacob said, laughing.
“They needed to cut a deal and that is not something we are going to give for nothing.”
A similar deal had also been cut on the lighting signal at the intersection of the Valley Drive and Highway.99, he said.
Jacob candidly admits the ‘numbers’ just weren’t there to support the lights, but there was the leverage of the land.
A transportation ministry spokesperson said the overpass would provide a more direct and safer route for elementary school children travelling to the Stawamus elementary school.
“The pedestrian overpass will also connect to the District of Squamish Corridor Trail to allow pedestrians and cyclists a safer route for travelling through the District of Squamish,” the spokesperson said.
About 30 school children will use the overpass to access the school.
Jacob said it must not be forgotten that the overpass was a small amenity compared to the “awful amount of money” made using Squamish Nation traditional territories.
“We look after our constituents and we are good negotiators,” he said.
Construction has already begun on the overpass that will connect the Totem Hall to the north of the Gaming Centre.
It will open in June.