Spring is sprung, the writ will soon drop, and political promises and counter-promises, announcements and re-
announcements will rain upon us like April showers.
It's already started. Take the four-laning of the Trans-Canada between Kamloops and the Alberta border. It has been re-announced for the umptieth time, and we can expect it to get significant play from Liberal candidates all along the highway during the campaign.
If this grand scheme should ever come about, it would resolve a lot of safety problems, and improve traffic flow immensely. That is, until it reaches Kamloops. All those cars and trucks barrelling over the Rockies and into the Interior would suddenly hit a gauntlet that starts at Orchards Walk and stretches through six stoplights all the way to the bypass.
There's a fix for this but it raised such an outcry at the turn of the century that the politicians and traffic engineers packed up their blueprints and beat a rear-guard retreat all the way back to Victoria, where it snores on the shelf like a somnambulant trog. Current strategy, as reflected in last month's news conference, is to let sleeping trogs lie. Allow me to explain.
As we entered the new millennium, engineers decided the increasingly dysfunctional Valleyview corridor could no longer be ignored. So in January 2000, they unveiled the Kamloops link in what they called the "Cache Creek to the Rockies Program."
You will note the difference between that and the "Kamloops to Alberta Border Four-Laning Program" as it's now called. The new version ignores the Valleyview corridor, as if Trans-Canada traffic begins and ends at the eastern border of the city.
There were, and are, two ways to get vehicles through Kamloops with any efficiency. As explained 13 years ago, one is to extend the existing bypass from Peterson Creek bridge east along the silt bluffs instead of dipping down into Valleyview, and rejoin the highway near Holman Road. The other is to remove all the signalled intersections from the Valleyview corridor and build freeway ramps.
The first option raises environmental, noise and soil stability issues. The second, as presented in 2000, would require the destruction of at least 50 homes and businesses and seriously mess with Valleyview's lifestyle. Either option was estimated at $80 million.
The choice pitted community against community, neighbour against neighbour. Even editorialists were at odds, here on this very page. "What has initiated this haste to make a decision on traffic problems predicted in Valleyview?" demanded one writer. "Leaving plans for another day because decisions are controversial is one option that deserves to be ruled out," wrote another.
Skeptics said all the angst was unnecessary because the government was too far in debt and too afraid to do anything. In 2000, the B.C. debt stood at $1.5 billion. When the current fiscal year ends a week from now, the debt will be just over $56 billion.
Back then, "leaving plans for another day" was exactly what the provincial politicians and planners did, just as they're doing now. Meanwhile, the Valleyview corridor gets worse and, some day, like it or not, we'll have to deal with it.