The B.C. government is implementing the $6.4-million Highway 16 Transportation Action Plan, to create positive change and safer transportation options for everyone who lives along the Highway 16 corridor.
This is a comprehensive, community driven transportation plan, to fill the transportation gaps along the corridor, addressing community-based needs, as well as the broader Highway 16 recommendation made in Wally Oppal’s report on missing women. The recommendation was: “To develop and implement an enhanced public transit system to provide a safer travel option connecting the Northern communities, along Highway 16.”
- BC Transit expansion
- For the expanded transit services, the Province is funding 100%of the vehicles, and two-thirds of the operating costs.
- Local governments, through regional districts, are working together to share costs for their one-third share of the operating costs.
- The Province has committed five years of transit funding, up from the original three-year commitment.
- On Jan. 30, 2017, BC Transit initiated the first expanded transit services running between Smithers and Moricetown, a six-days-per-week bus service.
- The next inter-community transit service - linking Burns Lake to Smithers and Burns Lake to Prince George - will be in place later this spring, on a three-days-per-week schedule.
- New transit service between Terrace and the Hazeltons will also start later this spring.
- All Highway 16 inter-city transit services allow passengers to travel to the next largest community and return home in the same day.
- Community vehicle grant program –
- 12 northern B.C. communities and organizations are receiving community vehicle grants.
- The program budget has more than doubled from $800,000 to $2 million, over three years. This boost in funding was made to ensure the program could meet the diverse transportation needs of communities along the 800-kilometre stretch of corridor between Prince George and Prince Rupert.
- The grants will pay up to 70% of both the purchase price of a vehicle (such as a van, mini-van, or bus) and its operation.
- Recipients can purchase their community vehicle upon receipt of the grant and can choose their vehicle, based on their community’s needs.
- In awarding the grants, preference was given to applicants representing First Nations communities or partnered with First Nations communities, as well as to remote communities where no transportation services are currently available.
- First Nations driver education program –
- Carrier Sekani Family Services has been selected to deliver the First Nations driver education program and has now reached out to all of the First Nations communities along the corridor.
- Driving instructors provide hands-on training to First Nations community members, to boost the number of Class 4 and Class 5 drivers in First Nations communities.
- Driver training has started in the Fort St. John area and will soon begin in the Burns Lake area.
- Webcams and transit shelters –
- In 2016, the ministry activated five new web camera locations: Highway 16 in Burns Lake at North Francois Highway, Highway 16 in Telkwa at Hankin Road, Highway 16 at Nautly Road in Fort George - Nechako, Highway 16 at Highway 27 in Fort George, Highway 16 at Main Street in Smithers. More webcams will be installed and activated in the spring and summer.
- Six new all-weather bus shelters have been installed in Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake, Wet’suwet’en First Nation, Moricetown, Gitaus and Kitimat. The bus shelters are protected from rain and snow, and they feature a bench and good visibility from the road.
- Collaboration to increase interconnectivity –
- BC Transit, Northern Health Authority (NHA), First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), not-for-profit organizations and private service providers are working with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to identify gaps and increase coordination of existing transportation services along the corridor.
- A significant mapping exercise has been completed with GeoBC to outline gaps, identify duplications, and potential for services to connect or to be improved.
- NHA is working closely with the FNHA to increase awareness and ridership of the Northern Health Connections transportation service.
- More work will be ongoing this summer and fall to further maximize transportation access and opportunities.