Complexity of Hwy. 16 plan

The $5-million plan that will have buses connecting the highway corridor between Prince George and Prince Rupert.

I recently attended a meeting about the Hwy. 16 action plan, the $5-million plan that will have buses connecting the highway corridor between Prince George and Prince Rupert.

During the meeting I realized how complex this project actually is. Although B.C. Transit has plenty of experience and can tap into their knowledge of best practices learned over the years across the province, this project is certainly unique.

It involves several municipalities and First Nations communities, and its main goal is to increase safety along Hwy. 16. This means that several aspects nee to be considered and the interests of several communities need to be met.

It’s certainly not easy to please everyone (and just a couple of weeks ago this reporter was writing an editorial criticizing the location of the bus shelter being built in Burns Lake).

But the impression I got after hearing representatives from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and B.C. Transit explaining the plan is that they realize a once-sizefits-all approach would not work.

Although many people have concerns and anxieties over how the bus system will work, the truth is that you can’t prepare for every eventuality, so the first few months of the plan will be vital to assess what needs to change.

One of the concerns raised during the meeting in Burns Lake was that the buses would encourage more locals to go out of town to shop, negatively impacting the local economy. Although that is certainly a valid concern, I agree with chamber manager Jordanna Evans and Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach when they say the buses will likely benefit the economy of all communities along the highway corridor.

While Smithers has skiing, Burns Lake has mountain biking; many people have family and friends that live in nearby communities; and many travelers will likely be encouraged to stop along the way if there are good transportation options. This can only be good for local economies.

Current transportation options in our region are considered a huge detriment to the area. Via Rail has constant delays of up to six hours due to the limited number of tracks and the fact that the company often has to give priority to freight trains. Greyhound has reduced service in the region over the years and their schedules are not convenient to many people.

Improving transportation options in the region will make the lives of locals easier, and this can translate into people staying in the north for longer, which would also benefit local economies.

Since the Hwy. 16 action plan is about safety, buses are only one part of the plan. The plan also includes $1.5 million over two years to increase the number of webcams on the highway and the frequency of photographs taken at these spots, in addition to the new bus shelters.

Considering the complexity of this project, I think that overall B.C. Transit has been doing a great job. I look forward to seeing how this project will unfold in December.