A 50 per cent increase in bridge rehabilitation and 1,000 km of highway repaving each year are included in a 10-year transportation plan released Tuesday by B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone.
The plan also includes $24 million over three years to pay a provincial share of community airport improvements and an $18 million fund for bike lanes and cycling trails.
A province-wide trucking strategy is also included in the plan, which restates several projects previously announced by the government. They include work on a replacement for the Massey tunnel under the Fraser River in South Delta, planning for a second bridge across Okanagan Lake at Kelowna, and conversion of BC Ferries vessels to use liquefied natural gas fuel.
Overall the plan includes $800 million over three years to upgrade existing infrastructure and nearly $1 billion toward expansion of major highways.
With an eye to an aging as well as growing population, disabled access projects are to include accessible washrooms and curbs at highway rest areas and wheelchair accessible taxis in communities around B.C.
NDP transportation critic Claire Trevena called the 10-year plan “insulting to the people of B.C.,” with only three years of funding promised and most of the improvements already announced.
“There are lots of vague promises that have been made for many years,” Trevena said. “For instance the four-laning of the Trans-Canada to the Alberta border, finishing off the Cariboo Connector, finishing off bridges.
“If you’re investing in bridges, let’s get some strategic analysis of our bridges, and where we need them and how we’re going to pay for them.”
With ballots going out to Metro Vancouver voters for a plebiscite on funding new transportation improvements through a regional 0.5% sales tax, the provincial plan focuses heavily on rural areas. It includes an increase to $270 million over three years to upgrade provincial side roads and $60 million for resource roads in the northeast B.C. gas patch.
One major commitment for the Lower Mainland is to continue the six-laning of Highway 1 from Langley to Abbotsford.