Transportation Minister Todd Stone is calling for public input to help guide a new 10-year provincial transportation plan he aims to unveil by the end of January.
The public consultations for the plan – dubbed “B.C. On the Move” – include meetings across the province with communities and stakeholders, a Twitter town hall and a dedicated website at engage.gov.bc.ca/transportationplan.
Stone said he expects local priorities coming forward may include calls for secondary road improvements, more highway passing lanes or four-lane sections, as well as enhancements to local transit or cycling routes.
The ministry is accepting submissions until Dec. 12.
Survey questions to the public released by the ministry emphasize highway improvements and ask nothing about coastal ferry service or fares – the main source of criticism for Stone in recent months. The ministry will instead rely on previous public consultations in 2011 by the B.C. Ferry Commissioner to guide the ferries portion of the new plan.
Nor does the document ask the public if they’re willing to pay more tolls to finance new bridges in Metro Vancouver.
Stone previously promised a tolling policy review, in light of probable new tolls on replacements of the Pattullo Bridge and Massey Tunnel, and a call from Metro mayors for tolling reform to allow road pricing to fund TransLink.
Tolling inequity is already a major complaint among Surrey-area residents, who feel singled out by tolls on the province’s Port Mann Bridge and TransLink’s Golden Ears Bridge.
Stone said he remains committed to review the policy, which allows tolls only on new infrastructure where there’s a reasonable untolled alternative, but couldn’t give a timeline.
The replacement of the Massey Tunnel between Delta and Richmond with a new bridge is already in the technical design phase and is expected to be one of the plan’s centrepiece projects, along with the Cariboo Connector four-laning of 440 kilometres of Highway 97 from Cache Creek to Prince George.
It’s also expected to explore options for a future second crossing of Okanagan Lake in Kelowna.
Stone said a successful referendum on new taxes for TransLink in Metro Vancouver next spring would result in the mayors’ transit expansion plans being added into the provincial plan.
A referendum defeat, he said, would leave “other investments” identified as priorities in the Lower Mainland to be pursued under the plan.
Stone said he’s working collaboratively with the mayors to help them adjust their financial assumptions and design the question so the referendum – to be held via mail-in ballot – has the “maximum chance of success.”
A discussion guide (see below) for the consultations notes the province needs to replace aging transportation infrastructure, while preparing for an extra million B.C. residents by 2025 as well as the effects of aging demographics, growing demand for public transit and increased pressure on rural roads from resource development.
As for how to pay for new infrastructure, the ministry document says the province would “explore different funding options” while also maximizing federal contributions and partnering with First Nations, local governments and the private sector