Federal commitment lacking for infrastructure

Ministry of Transportation officials encourage CSRD board to get federal government onboard with four-laming of TCH.

Lobby the feds.

That was a message that officials with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure left with CSRD directors at their board meeting Thursday.

Murray Tekano and Tracy Cooper from the ministry attended the meeting to update directors on the highway improvement projects in the region including the Malakwa Bridge replacement, upgrades at Pritchard and Hoffman’s Bluff  and upcoming work west of Salmon Arm.

But after hearing from directors, who wanted more extensive upgrading work, done in longer stretches, both men urged the regional district to continue to push for federal funding for Trans-Canada Highway improvements.

“To get as much infrastructure as we can, we want federal partnerships,” said Cooper. “Remember that whenever you meet with your MP.”

Directors were told that the province renewed its $650 million commitment to highway upgrading projects in 2015 as part of the BC On the Move plan, but noted many of the projects along the Trans-Canada require extensive and complex solutions.

“All the low hanging fruit has been done,” said Cooper, referring to the easier stretches of highway. “Now every project we face has issues, challenging terrain, complex negotiations with First Nations and other stakeholders.”

These challenges make updating even seemingly small sections very expensive. There are currently 335 kilometres of the Trans-Canada Highway between Kamloops and the Alberta border and currently only 13 per cent is four-laned, although an additional 10 per cent is currently in the planning or development stages.

“It’s a lot. A billion will not even finish the four-laning to the Alberta border,” Cooper said.

Sicamous mayor and regional director Terry Rysz concurred.

“There’s been projects going ahead. Of course we’re pleased about the upgrades for the octopus intersection (in Sicamous) and to hear that the Bruhn Bridge is on the radar, but we are going to have to get the feds to the table, if we want to move forward any quicker.”