Thursday, October 25, 2007

Falcon on Gateway

On a day when Kevin Falcon introduced the TransLink revamp legislation in the Legislature, the Minister of Transportation also has a column in the Vancouver Sun. You can almost hear the sound of the anti-Gateway folks gnashing their teeth:
We have a problem in the Lower Mainland. We are facing a rapidly growing population, aging infrastructure and insufficient transit options.

We also face a rapidly changing world. The massive economic growth in Asia affords tremendous opportunities -- if British Columbia is willing to act boldly to capitalize on them.

Congestion in the Lower Mainland is costing our economy up to $1.5 billion every year. It increases travel times for commuters and keeps their vehicles idling in chronic gridlock conditions. Worse, it prevents buses from using the Port Mann corridor due to the impossibility of keeping a schedule with 14-hour-a-day congestion.

The $3-billion Gateway Program is a balanced solution to today's problems. By twinning the Port Mann Bridge and building the new Pitt River Bridge as well as the South Fraser Perimeter Road, we are acting now to reduce congestion, improve the movement of people and goods and provide access to key economic gateways.

Most importantly, the Gateway Project will implement key transit and cycling options that are currently impossible with today's congested conditions and inadequate infrastructure.

When the twinned Port Mann Bridge opens in 2013, bus service will be re-introduced through that corridor for the first time in 20 years. This will be tied in with our recent $180-million announcement of a rapid bus service -- enabled by park and ride facilities along Highway 1 and design features built into the highway that will allow the rapid buses to bypass other traffic. These measures will allow commuters to travel from Langley to Burnaby in just 23 minutes.

Initiatives like this stem from our recognition that getting people out of their cars and onto public transit is key to resolving congestion in the long run. To this end, we have plans to create HOV and transit priority lanes that will encourage commuters to get out of their vehicles and into realistic alternatives. Also important is Victoria's commitment to the largest investment in cycling infrastructure in provincial history: $50 million to create a seamless and safe cycling network from the Fraser Valley to downtown Vancouver.

These investments complement the other major transit infrastructure projects planned or underway in the Lower Mainland. The $1.9-billion Canada Line will take 100,000 people per day out of their cars and onto public transit -- removing 14,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually. It is proceeding ahead of schedule and on budget. The planned Evergreen Line will provide rapid transit to the Tri-Cities. In the coming weeks, government will unveil a bold transportation vision that will see British Columbia become a world leader in transit ridership.

The NDP Opposition says "No" to the Gateway Program. Carole James says it's the "wrong bridge" and the "wrong plan," but is unable to offer commuters any coherent alternative.

Our government recognizes that roads alone are not the answer. Transit alone is not the answer. It will require a balance to build a clean, green and effective transportation system that will provide benefits now and for future generations.

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