Saturday, November 17, 2007

Gateway a priority

It was with great interest that I read the Budget 2008 report of bipartisan recommendations to Finance Minister Carole Taylor. These BC Liberal and NDP MLAs traveled the province and listened to hundreds of people present their priorities for this year's budget cycle. So what did they recommend on Gateway? Common sense:
As we have indicated in previous sections, this Committee strongly believes that B.C.’s environmental goals can only be met if the government continues to make strategic investments in infrastructure that will ensure a strong and vibrant economy. We are satisfied that the Gateway Program is crucial to the economies of British Columbia and Canada.

Nonetheless, the Committee recognizes that we received hundreds of submissions from residents of the City of Vancouver who almost-unanimously advocated against the Gateway Program — particularly the proposed twinning of the Port Mann Bridge. Conversely, we also heard from residents living on the south side of the Fraser River demanding the Port Mann Bridge be twinned, coupled with enhanced transit options for regions south of the Fraser River.

The Committee recommends that the government:
42. continue to make strategic investments in transportation infrastructure projects that are crucial to the economy of British Columbia and Canada, such as the Asia Pacific Gateway Program.

Hear, hear!

What else did they say on Gateway?
With respect to measures to enhance economic growth, we re-confirm the Committee’s recommendation that government continue to build highway infrastructure that is of provincial and national importance — namely the Gateway Program.

The report also expresses the need for improved transit to run in tandem with Gateway (a position we at Get Moving BC wholeheartedly support!):
Such incentive-based programs may include additional resources to promote energy-efficient households; multi-faceted support for the British Columbia agriculture industry; additional resources to promote made-in-B.C. biofuels; various programs to improve the efficiency of B.C.’s trucking fleet; and measures to promote environmentally-friendly consumer packaging. To allay some of the concerns expressed by urban residents, we also endorse calls for the government to expedite — where fiscally feasible — investments in rapid transit infrastructure.

A significant number of on-line responses asked the provincial government to consider providing additional resources, in partnership with the federal government, for public transit options. We heard calls for specific rapid transit projects for B.C.’s urban centres, as well as requests for expanded bus transit services throughout the province.

A common refrain we heard was the need for the government to make resources available to accommodate a significant expansion of rapid transit in B.C.’s urban centres. We heard a strong desire for the government to provide additional resources to TransLink for the construction of the Evergreen Line, as well as resources to provide commuter rail to connect the West Shore communities to the City of Victoria. Our on-line
consultations, in particular, highlighted several options for rapid transit in the growing communities south of the Fraser River, including Skytrain extensions, a light-rail system following Highway 1, and commuter rail along the old interurban tracks in the Fraser Valley.


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