Government has under-spent budget in first three years of promised 10-year, $650 million highway plan
The latest provincial budget contains more than $200 million in spending over the next three years on four-laning the Trans-Canada Highway from Kamloops to the Alberta border.
According to the service plan for the Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure, $48 million is set to be spent this year, $57 million in 2017 and $101 million in 2018, for a total of $206 million.
Only two projects are mentioned in the service plan – phase four of the Kicking Horse Canyon Project, and completion of twinning the 10.5-kilometre stretch from Monte Creek to Pritchard, east of Kamloops – however the ministry provided a list of projects that are either underway or in the planning & design phase. They are:
— Phase 2 of the Hoffman’s Bluff project, which includes four-laning 3.1 kilometres of highway at a cost of $61.6 million. The federal government is paying for $26.9 million of that. Construction is scheduled to finish this year.
— Replacement of the Malakwa Bridge and twinning three kilometres of highway, at a cost of $35 million, $13 million of which is coming from Ottawa. Work is set to finish this summer.
— Four-laning 7.5 kilometres of highway from Hoffman’s Bluff to Chase Creek at a cost of $94.5 million, $18.3 million of which is being paid for by Ottawa. Design work is complete, but there is no set date for construction to begin.
— Twinning six kilometres of highway through western Salmon Arm. This project is in the planning & design phase, and no cost estimate is available.
— Replacement of the North Fork bridge and twinning 3.5 kilometres between Revelstoke and Sicamous. The cost and construction start date are to be determined.
— Four-laning of a 2.4 kilometre stretch of highway near Albert Canyon. $34 million in funding was announced just before the Federal election campaign started last August. The federal government is contributing $15.5 million towards this project.
— Four-laning 2.5 kilometres of highway 20 kilometres west of Golden. No cost or construction timing has been set.
— The fourth phase of the Kicking Horse canyon project, which consists of twinning four kilometres of highway just outside of Golden. It has been in the planning stages for years. The budget for this is $450 million, which the province hopes to share with the federal government.
In 2012, Premier Christy Clark announced the province would spend $650 million over the next 10 years on twinning the Trans-Canada Highway from Kamloops to the Alberta Border.
So far it is behind on its promise, having underspent its budget in the first three years of the commitment, according to the service plans and estimates published by the Ministry of Transportation. In 2012/13, $74 million was budgeted but only $60 million was spent. In 2013/14, $59 million was budgeted but only $18 million was spent. In 2014/15, $50 million was budgeted but only $32 million was spent.
Last April, during a debate in the Legislature, Transportation Minister Todd Stone said it would cost $6 billion to finish twinning the provincial portions of the highway from Kamloops to Alberta. Former MP David Wilks said it would cost $5 billion in 2012 dollars to twin the highway through Yoho, Glacier and Mount Revelstoke national parks.
Norm Macdonald, the MLA for Columbia River–Revelstoke, criticized the government’s spending. “The much needed Trans-Canada Highway upgrade remains essentially unfunded, despite numerous announcements and promises that this was a priority for the government,” he said.
Mayor Mark McKee said he doesn’t expect to see big strides in highway spending until the Federal government comes to the table with big money. “One thing I am confident is that when the feds are ready to sit down at the table and talk Trans-Canada, the province will be there to fund upgrades.”