NDP leader promises to accelerate Kamloops to Alberta highway construction

By Chad Klassen
October 31, 2016 - 4:59pm Updated: October 31, 2016 - 5:37pm

KAMLOOPS — Twinning the TransCanada Highway from Kamloops to Alberta was first announced in 2008. The first phase from Monte Creek to Pritchard finished in 2012. 

There were delays in the process after the Neskonlith Indian Band found archeological remains along the highway. Now eight years since the announcement, the second phase of construction has gone as far as Hoffman's Bluff.

But it's not enough, according to B.C. NDP leader John Horgan, who was in Kamloops on Monday. 

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"Christy Clark has been able to achieve three kilometers a year for a grand total of 13 kilometers of upgrades. I don't believe that's good enough," says Horgan.

Opposition leader john horgan isn't impressed with where the project's at, saying it should be much further along. On Monday, Horgan promised to accelerate the final 230 kilometers to get the twinning done quicker. 

"It's a difficult part of the highway, there's no question. 100 kilometers are in National Parks. There are 230 provincial-gazetted roadways that are part of this route, and I believe the sooner we get at it, the cheaper it's going to be. The longer we wait, the more expensive it will be," Horgan notes.

But Transportation Minister Todd Stone doesn't believe construction has lagged behind.
"We'll have well over 20 kilometers that will be done that are represented in the investments that we've made, and four-laning is expensive," says Stone. "We have some of the most treacherous, mountainous conditions anywhere in the country."  

Head of the local International Union of Operating Engineers says only about 20 construction workers are on the project right now, and more local people could be employed with multiple phases happening at once. 

"You know, one project at a time might provide employment for between 20 to 60 people. That's not a big employment opportunity," says Bryan Railton. "Having multiple projects going, like back in the days of the Coquihalla, are the kinds of projects that create careers and employment for people long term."

But Stone says the NDP plan would actually end up costing taxpayers more in the long run. 

"Today, a vacuous committment to four-lane the TransCanada Highway faster without any details as to what that really means, what the dollars are that are involved, and how we would pay for it," says Stone. "I think we know how we would pay for it: higher taxes."

Horgan didn't have a dollar figure attached to his plans, although cited the $650 million that's been earmarked already over the next 10 years.

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