British Columbia’s new 10-year transportation plan, unveiled March 17 by Transportation Minister Todd Stone at the Vancouver Board of Trade, aims to rehabilitate roadways and bridges and improve efficiency of ports and airports. Dubbed B.C. on the Move, it will cost the province $2.5 billion over its first three years.
In the Lower Mainland, the plan includes a replacement of the George Massey Tunnel and the expansion of the Highway 1 stretch between Langley and Abbotsford to six lanes.
The plan also includes one-third funding of new rapid transit services and the Pattullo Bridge, “provided they can be accommodated within the provincial fiscal plan and the investments are supported by a business case” – a caveat that is being criticized by some, including Brent Toderian, who points out that spending on roads is guaranteed but transit funding remains in question.
Stone called the province’s transportation network “one of the most important foundations of a strong economy” and said the plan will guide expansion and improvements over the next 10 years.
It includes support for BC Ferries and a pledge to partner with communities to replace half of BC Transit’s fleet.
In Greater Victoria, priorities include easing congestion between Victoria and Langford and exploring options to revitalize the Belleville Street Terminal. Both emerged as key concerns during consultations late last year.
Few details — such as a budget or timeline — were given for either project, but the plan notes that design work to extend the Douglas Street bus lanes to Uptown is underway, as is work to assess a potential interchange at Highway 1 and McKenzie Avenue.
The lack of detail did not dampen the spirits of Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Carter, who lobbied for both projects.
“Certainly, we’re happy to see the province acknowledge those are priorities,” he said.
He said the lack of detail about easing the Colwood Crawl was understandable given the complexity of the issue.
“As for Belleville Street Terminal, I think that’s relatively straightforward and, relatively speaking, a low-dollar value. Our indication is they will move forward [on that] in the near term.”
Tourism Victoria, along with Black Ball Ferry Line and Clipper Navigation, have long argued for a consolidated terminal for the Coho and Clipper ferries, which run between the Inner Harbour and Washington state.
Ryan Malane, vice-president and co-owner of Black Ball Ferry, called the terminal’s inclusion in the plan a big step.
“It’s something we have obviously been pursuing for a number of years, and I take this as an encouraging sign that it’s a priority for the province,” he said.
While the transportation plan was short on detail, Malane said there’s a long road ahead before the terminal project is a reality.
“A combined Belleville Terminal will require co-operation from many sides, the province, the city, First Nations and the operators to get this done,” he said.
NDP transportation critic Claire Trevena panned the report for its lack of detail and firm financial commitments.
“There’s basically nothing for people on the Island here,” she said. “There were some vague promises again about dealing with the Colwood Crawl. There were vague issues about dealing with roads off Highway 19 or off Highway 1.”
Trevena also said most of the information in the report was disclosed earlier.
“It looks very pretty. It’s got lots of little bits so that you can quiz your family and friends over the dinner table on the ‘did you knows,’ ” she said. “But anything new? There doesn’t seem to be anything new in it.”
The report also includes pledges to deliver highway safety improvements on Highway 4 west of Port Alberni and to continue the median barrier on the Malahat corridor of Highway 1.
The plan said the ministry is assessing the costs and benefits of an alternate connection between the Island Highway and Port Alberni.
As for BC Ferries, the province said it would continue to encourage the corporation to reduce fares by standardizing vessels and using no-frills vessels on smaller routes, moving to LNG fuel propulsion and exploring the feasibility of fixed links.
The province’s commitment to provide $7.5 million for the E&N Rail Corridor was also maintained in the plan.
— With a file from Lindsay Kines