Politicians unite for TCH upgrades

When it comes to the Trans-Canada Highway, the City of Salmon Arm and the Columbia Shuswap Regional District are on the same page

“My concern is the timeline... I don’t think I am prepared to wait until my grandchildren are my age.” - Terry Rysz

“My concern is the timeline... I don’t think I am prepared to wait until my grandchildren are my age.” - Terry Rysz

When it comes to the Trans-Canada Highway, the City of Salmon Arm and the Columbia Shuswap Regional District are on the same page.

Appearing as Mayor Nancy Cooper’s alternate at the regional district board meeting last Thursday, Coun. Kevin Flynn said the mayor had requested a regional letter be sent to Ottawa asking that funding for TCH improvements be included in the 2016 federal budget.

Flynn said members of council had met to discuss priorities with MP Mel Arnold.

“He said it would be helpful if a regional focus would be sent, particularly if it’s about continued improvements to the TCH – to have a collaborative approach and focus on a few issues,” said Flynn, who noted infrastructure funding requests within the municipality were for TCH and sewer issues. “We kept it very simple and, as a region, I think we need to focus on the TCH.”

CSRD chair and Electoral Area E director Rhona Martin said the importance of the Trans-Canada Highway to the entire region has been iterated at the regional district board many times.

And although he has had many issues with the state of the roads in his jurisdiction, Area D Falkland/Salmon Valley/Ranchero director Rene Talbot agreed the Trans-Canada should be the number-one priority in this request.

Revelstoke Mayor Mark McKee thanked Salmon Arm for bringing the issue to the board.

“Everybody has a pet peeve or project in their area… I like to talk about where there are critical road issues of safety and the feasibility to improve it,” he said. “I could pick three areas in my back yard, but safety is the number one and I want to stay in that vein so we are not pitting one against the other.”

McKee also believes it is critical that the federal government sit down with the province and come up with a long-term plan for the Trans-Canada.

While agreeing the national link is important, Area F North Shuswap director Larry Morgan said his priority is to have a road that connects his area with Sun Peaks.

“It would have a tremendous impact on my area,” he said. “It is critical to economic development and tourism.”

Salmon Arm director Chad Elision took directors on a trip down memory lane.

“Everybody remembers when Mr. Stone came forward with Moving Forward 20-20,” he said of provincial plans to improve the Trans-Canada Highway from Cache Creek to the Alberta border. “The major roadblock was the lack of federal funding. I think knowing the province is ready to go on these projects and has committed $600 million over the next 10 years will help.”

Sicamous Mayor Terry Rysz supported the regional focus but with a caveat.

“My concern is the timeline in which they’re completing the work,” he said. “I don’t think I am prepared to wait until my grandchildren are my age.”

The longest-running director on the board, Martin reminded directors there have been times when the federal government was onboard to improve the Trans-Canada Highway but the province was not.

“We all know where the TCH is; it’s our mainstream,” she said, noting how accidents, rockfalls and weather mean people are stuck at home or not able to get home. “We want people to come home safely.

Flynn said that while safety is of paramount concern, the economic impact of the highway both regionally and nationally cannot be ignored.

“There is a time sensitivity to this,” said Flynn, noting that with the deadline for submissions looming, directors should approve a letter to be written by CSRD staff rather than wait to approve a draft at next month’s board meeting. “The key is to have somebody draft a letter that embodies what we have said around the board.”

Directors were unanimous in their consent.