The Provincial Government released its 10-year transportation plan last week, and the Premier’s earlier promises are not being fulfilled says Columbia-River Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald.
“There were more specific commitments made in 2012,” said Macdonald, referring to a pre-election campaign that included promises of completing the four-laning project between Kamloops and the Alberta border.
“This plan does nothing to achieve that stated goal.”
A 50 per cent increase in bridge rehabilitation and 1,000 km of highway repaving each year are included in a 10-year transportation plan released by B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone.
However Macdonald sees those “projects” as regular maintenance, not a step towards improving the highway. Keeping the highway up to its current standard, especially in the stretch between Golden and Revelstoke where there have been 38 fatal crashes in a ten-year period (2004-2013), isn’t good enough. The highway needs to be upgraded says Macdonald.
“They made a commitment and they haven’t done it yet. And this plan shows that they won’t do it in the next three years either,” he said.
“All of us who live in this area know how often emergency crews head out on that highway. It’s tough on a community. And when the government calls a press conference and makes these grand announcements without actually coming through on their promises, it’s just offensive.”
The plan also includes $24 million over three years to pay a provincial share of community airport improvements and an $18 million fund for bike lanes and cycling trails.
A province-wide trucking strategy is also included in the plan, which restates many projects previously announced by the government. They include work on a replacement for the Massey tunnel under the Fraser River in South Delta, planning for a second bridge across Okanagan Lake at Kelowna, and conversion of BC Ferries vessels to use liquefied natural gas.
Overall the plan includes $800 million over three years to upgrade existing infrastructure and nearly $1 billion toward expansion of major highways.
With an eye to an aging as well as growing population, disabled access projects are to include accessible washrooms and curbs at highway rest areas and wheelchair accessible taxis in communities around B.C.
NDP transportation critic Claire Trevena called the 10-year plan “insulting to the people of B.C.,” with only three years of funding promised and most of the improvements already announced.
“There are lots of vague promises that have been made for many years,” Trevena said. “For instance the four-laning of the Trans-Canada to the Alberta border, finishing off the Cariboo Connector, finishing off bridges.
“If you’re investing in bridges, let’s get some strategic analysis of our bridges, and where we need them and how we’re going to pay for them.”
With ballots going out to Metro Vancouver voters for a plebiscite on funding new transportation improvements through a regional 0.5 per cent sales tax, the provincial plan focuses heavily on rural areas. It includes an increase to $270 million over three years to upgrade provincial side roads and $60 million for resource roads in the northeast B.C. gas patch.
*With files from Black Press