KAMLOOPS—The Christy Clark government’s slow pace on improvements to the Trans-Canada Highway is stalling the economy, construction jobs and safety for travelers, B.C. New Democrat leader John Horgan said today, making a commitment to accelerate four-lane expansion of the route from Kamloops to the Alberta border.
“Christy Clark promised in 2012 to speed up work on this highway in order to improve safety and reliability. In the last four years her government has only upgraded 13 kilometres. At that rate it will take 70 years to finish the job,” Horgan said.
“Modernizing B.C.’s most important connection to the rest of Canada has not been a priority for the B.C. Liberals. I want get moving on this work, and we can’t afford to wait for Christy Clark. The safe, smooth movement of people and goods is vital to economic growth, new jobs and new opportunities for apprenticeships and careers in construction.”
Horgan said the pressing need to improve the Trans-Canada was made clear last week after a rock slide closed the highway in Yoho National Park, injuring two workers. “The highway was shut for three whole days and drivers were forced to make a 100-kilometre detour. Delays and accidents like this can be minimized if we do the work.”
“Christy Clark’s government has missed deadlines, budgets have been blown, and very little progress has been made on four-laning Highway 1,” said Norm Macdonald, MLA for Columbia River-Revelstoke.
Macdonald noted that in 2013 the Clark government said the first seven highway upgrade projects in this corridor would be completed for $140 million. Only five of those projects have been done, and at a cost of $244 million, a significant cost overrun.
“The Trans-Canada Highway is our main connection to the rest of Canada and a vital route for travel, tourism and trade,” Horgan said. “But there are still many sections with sharp curves, steep grades and narrow bridges.”
Horgan said he wants to upgrade the entire highway to a modern, four-lane, 100 km per hour standard, from Kamloops to the Alberta border.
New Democrat transportation spokesperson Claire Trevena said the first step is to set an accelerated completion date and get to work immediately on meeting that goal. “We’ll prioritize the busiest and most unreliable sections and combine upgrades with rehabilitation and maintenance that is required anyway.
We’ll need to plan far enough ahead so that B.C.’s roadbuilding and heavy construction firms can be employed when they’re available and we don’t end up competing with bottlenecks that drive up costs,” said Trevena. “Money invested early through planning and preparation can have a significant payback in terms of avoided costs and problems.”
Horgan said a New Democrat government will make local hiring and apprenticeships a priority.