The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us all. But governments should also seize this opportunity for pivoting and planning for the future to ensure our communities are resilient and productive.
Infrastructure investment has proven to be an important tool to stimulate economic recovery, which has a multiplier effect. It enhances accessibility, facilitates trade, improves mobility, generates job opportunities and boosts supply and overall economic productivity.
As an MLA representing constituents from one of the North Shore ridings, I must say a rapid transit plan for our region has been called for since pre-pandemic times to address traffic congestion, and we need it now more than ever.
When transportation options for the North Shore aren’t keeping pace with its exponential growth, it affects businesses, commuters and tourism.
We need to improve and deliver transit options to residents to support communities moving forward, as they look for reliable travel times and access to jobs on both sides of Burrard Inlet.
However, the NDP’s record for bringing in relief for commuters on the Lower Mainland has been poor. There are still 85,000 daily commuters waiting for this government to solve the province’s worst traffic bottleneck — the Massey Tunnel.
Even with the approved Pattullo Bridge replacement project, it retained the width of a crossing at four lanes but came with a seven per cent cost increase that B.C. taxpayers will have to pay for — all thanks to NDP’s insiders-only union program — the Community Benefits Agreement.
I hope the government can truly consider the importance of infrastructure investment and incorporate it into its economic recovery plan. Not only does this planning need to be efficient and fair to workers, it should make out city more sustainable and livable.
I want to give an example of how technology can help and how government can move forward with innovation.
Many of you have heard of “Internet of Things” — a network of connected smart devices providing and sharing rich data. I had the great opportunity to visit the Department of Transportation in Denver, the U.S. State of Colorado, where they’re investing infrastructure dollars on the “Internet of Roads”, which turns a portion of the roadway into a place where cars communicate with streetlights, signs, and other Internet-connected things.
Many other regions are looking into the future like this for their transportation planning. It uses short-range communication technology with the vehicle driving ahead automatically communicating back to warn of approaching road issues such as collisions, icy roads and rockslides, enhancing road safety and reducing traffic congestion.
Ultimately, this will set up the network for future autonomous vehicles.
This smart road technology is a step towards the real digital highway of the future and supporting and leveraging B.C.’s growing tech sector.
Many businesses have had to adapt and change their business models during this pandemic in order to survive, and government can’t leave them on their own.
It has a role to play to put forward plans and invest in innovative programs that allow us to emerge from this pandemic better than before.
This is the time to identify current and future needs, and think outside of the box to invest in infrastructure as part of a systemic and holistic approach to economic recovery.
Karin Kirkpatrick is the MLA for West Vancouver-Capilano.