Kevin Falcon new man in charge of B.C's transportation 

20-year contract to be awarded for Sea to Sky Highway upgrades

The team that will take on the Sea to Sky Highway upgrades will be signing a 20-year contract with the province.

Kevin Falcon, the new Minister of Transportation, said this strategy will ensure the best quality product in highway construction.

Instead of just designing and building the highway, the team will also have to maintain and operate the highway for 20 years.

"When they're required to also operate and maintain it as part of the contract, it puts a far greater emphasis on them using the best possible materials when they put in their bids," Falcon said earlier this week.

"If you're going to be required to not just build it but also to maintain it and operate it for years to come, you are going to be very, very conscious about how you build it and the quality of the materials that you use et cetera when you are building it. So there will be a lot of decisions made that I think will have positive long-term consequences for the Sea to Sky Highway."

Any potential bidders must register by Feb. 3 and the government will put out a formal request for proposals in June.

"I expect that we will have our qualified team selected by the end of this year," said Falcon.

The $600 million Sea to Sky Highway project is just one of a number of key transportation initiatives that will now be handled by Falcon after Monday's cabinet shuffle.

Falcon, the former minister of state for deregulation, is very excited about his new role at the helm of all provincial transportation initiatives.

"This is a ministry that really is doing some very exciting things and it's an honour to have the opportunity to carry them out and build British Columbia," said Falcon, who had just finished moving into his new office on Wednesday.

Among other things on the near horizon is the selection of a passenger rail service to Whistler and beyond.

The Request For Proposals for the passenger train has been pushed back one week but final negotiations are set to take place this month and a final contract will be signed in April.

Falcon will also be in charge of completing the $1 billion privatization of B.C. Rail.

But his new role will not just focus on the corridor and Lower Mainland he said.

"One of the things that the premier has made very, very clear is that we are building a strategic infrastructure plan across the province of British Columbia and of course that includes things like the $600 million Sea to Sky Highway improvement project but it also includes really billions of dollars to open up the heartlands of British Columbia too," he said.

"The decisions we've made on transportation and infrastructure improvements all have to do with an over-arching strategic vision as to what we need to do to make British Columbia fire on all cylinders economically. That means identifying what ports need to be improved, what airports need to be expanded, what roads need to be widened or fixed and that's exactly what we're doing."

Former Transportation Minister Judith Reid had earlier told the premier that she would not be running for re-election in the May 2005 elections.

Before Monday's shuffle Falcon, as the minister of state for deregulation, was responsible for introducing the controversial Bill 75, also know as the Significant Projects Streamlining Act.


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