The B.C. government has unveiled a new $3-million plan to enhance transportation safety along the Hwy. 16 corridor from Prince Rupert to Prince George.
The plan consists of five actions the government will take to improve access to transportation services along the Hwy. 16 corridor and enable residents of First Nations communities and municipalities to travel safely to and from rural towns and villages along the corridor. The five point action plan consists of:
• $1.6 million over two years for transit expansion: These new funds will be available on a cost-shared basis with local communities to extend or enhance B.C. transit services to better connect communities.
• $750,000 over three years for a community transportation grant program to purchase and operate vehicles: These new funds will be available on a cost-shared basis with local communities to support community-based transportation programs operated by First Nations, local governments or non-profit organizations.
• $150,000 over three years for a First Nations driver education program: These new funds will build upon the current driver training/education program to increase the number of class four and class five drivers in First Nations communities along the Hwy. 16 corridor.
• $500,000 over two years for highway infrastructure safety improvements including webcams and transit shelters: These new funds will enable the ministry to increase the number of webcams on the highway and the frequency of photographs taken at these spots. New transit shelters will be built in communities that will be receiving new or expanded transit service.
• Collaboration to increase interconnectivity of services: The ministry will work to increase coordination of existing transportation services through B.C. Transit, Northern Health, not for profit organizations and private service providers including efforts to better synchronize schedules and expand user eligibility criteria.
The ministry has appointed a new nine-person Hwy. 16 transportation advisory group – including Burns Lake Mayor Luke Strimbold and the director of the Highway of Tears initiative Mary Teegee – to oversee implementation of the action plan. The advisory group will report to the minister of transportation and infrastructure and will be meeting over the months of January and February 2016 to review the specifics of the action plan and ensure it is implemented consistent with the input the ministry received at a recent transportation symposium held in Smithers.
Mayor Strimbold said this announcement marked a historic progress for communities in Northern B.C.
“I am honoured to be a part of the nine person advisory group, and I will be happy to work on this council to ensure that the transportation services reflect what was recommended at the recent transportation symposium in Smithers,” he said. “I believe that the five transportation actions outlined today will help to create safer connections for people living in rural communities along the corridor, connecting them to their families, friends, and local services.”