A key portion of the Trans-Canada Highway widening project has been postponed to sometime next year — and MLA Todd Stone isn’t happy about it.
Stone, Kamloops-South Thompson MLA and former transportation minister under the previous B.C. Liberal government, said the third phase of the project he announced in 2013 was to have gone to tender this year, with a construction date in the fall anticipated.
Stone said he has learned the provincial government has decided to delay work on the area between Hoffman’s Bluff and Jade Mountain “and it’s beyond explanation.”
The $199-million project included work already completed on the highway east of Kamloops through to the west end of Chase.
About 12,000 vehicles travel the highway through that corridor every day, Stone said, with about 30 per cent being large commercial trucks.
He said the stretch of highway records numerous accidents annually.
“We had everything lined up and ready to go,” Stone said, noting the project was supposed to move forward last fall. It was delayed due to a change in government (after the B.C. NDP succeeded the B.C. Liberals) and the inherent transition issues as the new administration took office.
Stone said he started hearing earlier this year that another delay was possible and asked questions of Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claire Trevena in the spring, but received answers he considered lacking in details.
“It was enough to raise my eyebrows,” Stone said. “I’m trying hard to understand how the NDP can commit to accelerating this project with what could be a two-year delay.”
Stone expressed concern the federal government might rethink its contribution to the project, but a spokesperson for Infrastructure Canada said once that level of government commits money to a project, it remains available until the project is completed.
The spokesperson said delays mean moving the line item forward into the next fiscal-year budget.
The provincial transportation ministry said it expects to issue a tender for part of the work later this year, with construction to begin in 2019.
The tender would be for widening, creating a new interchange and doing other upgrades to the area between Chase Creek Road to Chase Road West.
The section from Chase Road West to Jane Mountain is in the design phase and being fast-tracked, the ministry said, with construction to start in late 2019.
In the Hoffman’s Bluff area, the North Fork Bridge and Donald East projects are under construction.