Transportation and Infrastructure

Progress made, new funding for Transportation Action Plan for Highway 16

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Transportation and Infrastructure

Progress made, new funding for Transportation Action Plan for Highway 16

Media Contacts
Media Relations
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
250 356-8241
Media Contacts
Media Relations
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
250 356-8241

Backgrounders

Highway 16 Advisory Group

The Highway 16 Transportation Action Plan was created following consultations with community and First Nations leaders along the Highway 16 corridor in 2014 the Transportation Symposium held November 2015, in Smithers.

The symposium was co-hosted by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) and the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) and brought together over 90 community representatives to engage in discussions and share their experiences and recommendations about improving transportation options along the Highway 16 corridor. 

The Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure also appointed a 12-person advisory group to oversee implementation of the action plan.

The advisory group members include:

  1. Deborah Bowman, assistant deputy minister, Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (chair)
  2. Wanda Good, Deputy Chief Council, Gitanyow
  3. Reg Mueller, member Saik’uz First Nation
  4. Richard Jock, chief operating officer, First Nations Health Authority
  5. Mary Teegee, Highway of Tears Initiative and executive director of child and family services at Carrier Sekani Family Services
  6. Rob MacDougall, mayor of District of Fort St. James
  7. Luke Strimbold, mayor of Burns Lake
  8. Shane Brienen, mayor of Houston
  9. Carol Leclerc, mayor of Terrace and BC Transit Board chair
  10. Penny Anguish, chief operating officer, Northern Health Authority and chief nurse executive
  11. Chief Joe Bevan, Kitselas First Nation
  12. Chief Karen Ogen, Wet’suwet’en First Nation

The advisory group met in Prince George on the following dates:

  • January 15, 2016
  • February 3, 2016
  • February 24, 2016
  • March 30, 2016
  • May 11, 2016
Transit Expansion

The B.C. government will provide $2.4 million in funding to BC Transit over three years to support enhanced transit service to better connect communities along the Highway 16 corridor.  This includes new funding of $800,000 to add a third year of operation. This new funding is available on a cost-shared basis with local communities.

So far, 16 MOUs have been signed with BC Transit, which allows BC Transit to complete more detailed service planning. BC Transit planning and fleet maintenance staff are conducting telephone interviews with all MOU signatories. MOUs have been signed across four service areas:

Burns Lake to Smithers

  • Town of Smithers
  • District of Houston
  • Village of Burns Lake
  • Village of Telkwa
  • Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako - Area A (Smithers Rural)
  • Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako - Area G (Houston Rural)
  • Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako - Area B (Burns Lake Rural)

Burns Lake to Prince George

  • Village of Burns Lake
  • Village of Fraser Lake
  • District of Vanderhoof
  • District of Fort St. James
  • Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako - Area B (Burns Lake Rural)
  • City of Prince George

Hazelton to Terrace

  • Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine

Prince Rupert to Terrace

  • Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine
  • City of Prince Rupert

A discussion document outlining initial options for the services will be ready for review by these communities in early summer 2016, followed by a more detailed service planning process which will include community engagement to determine routes, schedules and fares.
Subject to local government approval, BC Transit aims to have the first buses operating new or expanded service along the Highway 16 corridor by the end of the year and services that connect the entire corridor, from Prince George to Prince Rupert, in 2017.

Community Transportation Grant Program

The B.C. government is providing $800,000 in provincial funding over three years for a community transportation grant program to purchase and operate vehicles.

Funding is available on a cost-shared basis to purchase and operate vehicles that will improve access to community-based transportation along the corridor while improving the safety of citizens. Eligible programs include those operated by or partnered with First Nations, local governments or non-profit organizations.

  • For those that are interesting in applying for funding for community vehicles and operating grants, an application form is up on this new website: www.gov.bc.ca/highway16transportationgrant
  • Cost-shared grants will be available to cover 70% of the purchase price of a vehicle (such as a 12-passenger van or a mini-van) and/or 70% of annual operating costs for up to three years.
  • If a community, First Nation or non-profit organization already has an existing vehicle, an application for an operating grant may also be submitted for funding.
  • Preference will be given to partnerships and transportation services that connect to BC Transit service along the Highway 16 corridor.
  • In extenuating circumstances, a higher provincial contribution may be contemplated to support vehicle purchase or operating costs.
  • Applications are due Sept. 16, 2016.
  • Once the application process is completed and adjudicated, communities and organizations receiving the community grant funding will be advised and announced before the end of the year.
First Nations Driver Education Program

The B.C. government is investing $300,000 over three years for a First Nations driver education program, funding in partnership through the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) and the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation (MARR). This includes $150,000 in new funding from MARR announced today.

This program will provide hands-on training to First Nations members and will boost the number of qualified Class 4 and Class 5 drivers in First Nations communities along the Highway 16 corridor.

Increasing the number of licensed Class 4 and Class 5 First Nations drivers can increase the opportunity for First Nations community members to operate a community vehicle as well as provide access to skills training and employment opportunities in northern B.C.

  • The RFP for qualified service providers to deliver the First Nations driver education program is now advertised on BC Bid: www.bcbid.gov.bc.ca
  • The deadline for submissions is July 15, 2016.
  • Following an evaluation process – expected to conclude later this summer – the organization selected to run the First Nations driver education program will be announced.
  • First Nations along the Highway 16 corridor will be able to apply for driver education training to help them obtain their Class 4 or Class 5 licence.
Highway safety – webcams and transit shelters

The B.C. government and the federal government through Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) are investing $1.5 million over two years for highway infrastructure safety improvements, including transit shelters and webcams. This includes $1 million in new funding from INAC that was announced today.

Three new webcam views have already been activated in the Smithers area at: http://drivebc.ca/#webcams
Cameras pointing in four directions increase safety and visibility of motorists and pedestrians. Planning is now underway to add additional webcams along the corridor by March 31, 2017.

Public safety and protection will be further enhanced with the installation of new transit shelters in communities receiving new or expanded public transit service. The new shelters will be designed for climate protection in a northern environment, good visibility, and ease of maintenance.

The ministry will also be augmenting the transit service and enhancing safety with the construction of intersection and sidewalk improvements, crosswalks, signage, lighting improvements and other ancillary works where required at the transit shelters.

Once the new transit routes are confirmed, BC Transit staff and local communities will work together to determine optimal locations for the new transit shelters and webcams.

Collaboration and co-ordination

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) is working with BC Transit, Northern Health Authority (NHA), First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), not-for-profit organizations and private service providers to increase co-ordination of existing transportation services along the corridor. This includes boosting public awareness about existing medical transport services, and looking at ways to maximize services and schedules to carry more passengers to hospitals and medical appointments.

The work accomplished over the last six months has entailed a significant mapping exercise with GeoBC to outline gaps, identify duplication of services, and potential for the services to connect or be improved. 

  • A working group including MOTI, NHA and FNHA have used integrated mapping to review medical transportation needs, data and travel patterns along the Highway 16 corridor, to identify opportunities for better co-ordination of services to First Nations communities.
  • The working group is also looking at efficiencies of scheduling between services and ways to increase information and awareness about existing transportation services such as the Northern Health Connections bus, VIA Rail, community shuttles, and BC Transit.
  • A formal partnership between FNHA and NHA is focused on improving First Nations access to medical travel services. This includes indigenous cultural competency training for Northern Health Connection bus drivers, shared promotion between NHA and FNHA staff, and optimizing overnight medical stay rates with hotels.
  • 100% of Northern Health drivers for the Northern Health Connections bus have completed the indigenous cultural competency training offered by the Provincial Health Services Authority.

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