The provincial government’s $14-
billion transit plan “eliminates the rationale” for the $4-billion Gateway Program, according to Eric Doherty.
Doherty, director at the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation and member of the Livable Region Coalition, has long opposed B.C. transportation minister Kevin Falcon’s Gateway Program—which includes the twinning of the Port Mann Bridge and expansion of Highway 1—because he believes it will neither relieve congestion nor increase transit ridership.
Falcon, a long-time Cloverdale resident, has countered these comments by stating his oft-repeated mantra: “Doing nothing is not an option.”
On January 14, Falcon and Premier Gordon Campbell jointly announced the transit plan, which includes the promise of completion of the previously stalled Evergreen SkyTrain line to the Tri-Cities, a rapid-transit line to UBC, an upgrade to the Expo Line, and a $1.6-billion investment in 1,500 new buses. The plan also pledges to ease traffic congestion and increase transit ridership to more than 400 million trips a year.
An estimated $11.1 billion in new funding is needed to complete the plan. The province has committed $4.75 billion; the plan calls for other levels of government to come up with the rest.
“It is providing a better way for people—particularly for the Highway 1 [users]—to get around the region,” Doherty told the Straight by phone. “In theory they could, and who knows, maybe they are already planning on abandoning Gateway and using the money to fund all this. They have certainly eliminated the reason for expanding Highway 1 and twinning the Port Mann Bridge.”
Dale Steeves, the premier’s communications director, did not make Campbell available for an interview by the Straight’s deadline. Falcon did not respond to a Straight message.
Jim Houlahan, vice president at Canadian Auto Workers Union Local 111, which organizes bus drivers in the region, said he agreed with Doherty.
“Gateway is the biggest, dumbest decision we could make,” Houlahan said by phone. “It is a five-year, short-term solution with dramatic adverse effects.”