Provincial NDP leader John Horgan hit on an issue of regional importance to the East Kootenay during his address at the recent Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) meeting, when he talked about the need for upgrades on the Trans-Canada Highway.
During his speech, Horgan said the highway was a critical transportation corridor linking the province, and promised that if the NDP were to be elected in 2017, upgrading the highway so that it is four lanes all the wayf rom Kamloops to the Alberta boarder would be one of the party’s biggest priorities.
Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald added further comment, slamming the B.C. Liberals efforts on twinning the highway, saying much of the road is unsafe and is full of high-risk areas.
“People along the highway are used to B.C. Liberal promises that turn out to be empty after an election. We have seen government signs put up along our highway that promise four-laning before the 2009 election, and again before the 2013 election. And then we’ve seen government budgets project a pace that means it will take 60years to complete the project,” said Macdonald. “This clearly is not good enough. Those of us that travel theTrans-Canada regularly recognize how unsafe and undependable this highway is. We know how much truck traffic travels through this route.”
He added that twinning the highway from Kamloops to the Alberta border would provide employment and economic benefit across the region.
“Even though the Trans-Canada is a national highway, the actual responsibility for the highway is provincial,outside of the national parks,” Macdonald told The Echo, adding that although there are a fair number of national parks between Kamloops and the Alberta border — Yoho, Glacier, and Mount Revelstoke — that still leaves hundreds of kilometres worth of highway falling under provincial responsibility.
“It is a significant commitment by John Horgan. I’ve always felt this is incredibly important, going back to when Iwas mayor in Golden,” he said. “We’ve seen some improvement work recently, but at the current pace it’s goingto take 60, if not 70 years, to finish. It has to be more of priority. It is the national highway.”
Macdonald added that although the Trans-Canada doesn’t come to the Columbia Valley, it still brings a lot of people here.
“A lot of traffic to Invermere comes down Highway 93, through Kootenay National Park, but the Trans-Canada does take a tremendous amount of goods into and out of the valley, and people coming into the valley from the coast travel on the Trans-Canada,” he said.
Macdonald called the road “unnecessarily unsafe” and pointed out that many accidents on the Trans-Canada lead to serious injuries and even deaths.
“A national highway must be divided and must be four lanes,” he said. “That’s what you have when you cross into Alberta and it continues like that right across the Prairies to Ontario. That’s what we need here.”
For an overview of the B.C. Liberal government’s Kamloops to Alberta four-laning program, visithttp://engage.gov.bc.ca/bchwy1/.