Perhaps the most crucial aspect of the Vancouver-Whistler Olympic bid has finally been made public. On Tuesday West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast MP John Reynolds told a West Vancouver Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting about the details of a transportation infrastructure plan that would serve the Lower Mainland, the Sea to Sky Corridor and much of the B.C. Interior. The $4 billion, 20-year plan includes many components that have been talked about for years: A new highway following Indian Arm, commuter rail from North Vancouver to Whistler, and a third crossing of Burrard Inlet: a tunnel under Vancouver Harbour for both automobiles and rapid transit. Since the private sector is willing to participate in the project now, all that’s needed to make it work, according to the Reform MP, is the federal government to jump on-side with its proposed 50 per cent infrastructure cost sharing and some "vision" from the provincial government. Mr. Reynolds knows the political game better than most and he knows it’s easier to be a visionary in opposition than in government, but his support for a long-term transportation strategy serving all of south-western B.C. is not off base at all. British Columbia needs some vision beyond the next election, something both the federal and provincial governments are sadly lacking. Architect Arthur Erickson — B.C.’s most famous architect, the man who has predicted Greater Vancouver could be home to upwards of 6 million people by the middle of the next century and a consultant to city planners around the world — is one of the people behind the plan. His partner is businessman David Lange. While details of their concept can be debated — is there really value in making the Sea to Sky Highway four lanes if you are trying to encourage commuter rail in the corridor? — it does deal with many of the issues that must be addressed if the Lower Mainland, Sea to Sky Corridor and even the northern Interior of the province are to remain liveable and economically sustainable. As Craig MacKenzie, Whistler’s representative on the Olympic bid committee, has pointed out, when Whistler reaches buildout it will take up all the remaining capacity of Highway 99. What about the growth in Squamish and Furry Creek, not to mention the possibility of additional ski resorts at Brohm Ridge and Cayoosh? A transportation plan of this magnitude is essential if the Vancouver-Whistler bid for the 2010 Olympics is successful, but this type of plan is needed whether the Olympics go ahead or not. What the Olympics can be is a catalyst, nudging public opinion and governments in the direction Erickson and Lange have laid out. It will still take a lot of vision and, perhaps more importantly, faith for the public to buy into anything with a $4 billion price tag, particularly in these times. The issues of land lost through road and railway construction, particularly in the recently proclaimed Indian Arm Park area, will generate considerable debate, as will any real estate development the private sector gets out of the project. Still, we must applaud Messrs. Reynolds, Erickson and Lange for their vision, we need more of this type of thinking from our leaders.


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