Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The need for a Regional Transportation Authority

The city has now been promised $21 000 000 from the federal government for the replacement of the bridge. This money is not coming from the stimulus money, but from the Build Canada pot of money. This should mean the timelines the city was trying to meet for the stimulus funding are not longer an issue.

Without funding from the province, the cost of the bridge to the city is over $40 000 000 if there are no cost overruns. The city needs to either find some other sources of money for the bridge or scale back the project. The easiest way to scale back the project would be to drop the rail part of the bridge.

The rail portion of the bridge adds a significant cost to the bridge with no benefits to the region. People want to keep the rail aspect of the bridge in the false hopes that this will be part of commuter rail system into the city. The millions of dollars that this will cost the city of Victoria can not justified. The people in the city of Victoria have to pay for the bridge for rail but the rail line has not benefits to people living in the city of Victoria.

If the rail link is important to others, they should come forward with the money to build the rail part of the bridge. $10 000 000 to $15 000 000 from the Island Corridor Foundation would be a reasonable contribution towards the bridge to maintain the rail part of the bridge. If the ICF is not willing to pay for the cost of the bridge, then the rail part of the bridge should not be built. It would only reasonable for the ICF to pay for 100% of the rail portion of the bridge.

I would also like to see Esquimalt agree to contribute something towards the cost of the bridge. Ideally I would like them to cover 1/3 of the local government cost of the bridge. The bridge is vital to Esquimalt and they should be willing to cover some of the costs.

The time has come for this region to have something similar to TransLink. TransLink is not only responsible for transit in the lower mainland, but also for maintaining and improving the major road network. As long as we have 13 randomly created local governments, we need a region wide way to deal with transportation issues.

A CRD regional transportation authority would be able to balance the needs of the major roads and bridges with the transit system. Projects like the Johnson Street Bridge, Mactavish road interchange, or the Spencer road interchange would all come under the mandate of the regional transportation authority. This authority would also be in charge of transit and could take action on transit expansion including an rapid transit ideas.

A regional transportation authority would balance the costs over all of the people of the region and would allow for much better integrated local planning or transportation. The authority would be able to take action on the Malahat.

A regional transportation authority would be able to raise money from local gasoline taxes as is done in Metro Vancouver. A small fuel tax could raise an additional $10 000 000 to $20 000 000 a year for local transportation infrastructure.

A local regional transportation authority would also make it much easier to access contributions from the provincial and federal governments for capital projects in the CRD. Of the three major transportation infrastructure projects currently under way in some way, two of them are being driven not by the needs of the region, but by the interests of a specific large user - Bear Mountain in the case of the Spencer Road interchange and the airport in the case of the Mactavish road interchange. Our transportation infrastructure is not being driven by the needs of the region.

There are many upsides to a regional transportation authority and few downsides. The time has come for the regional politicians to push for the province to create our own TransLink.
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