Even Pete gets it. Wake up, Kevin!

When I talk about Pete, I mean Pete McMartin of the Vancouver Sun. He’s a regular writer that finds himself on the front page of the Westcoast News section regularly.  Pete lives in sunny Tsawwassen near the future expanded Deltaport and the South Fraser Perimeter Road that is part of the Gateway Project.

He talks about how we run the world is changing.  Flights are being cancelled if they are not worth the fuel to fly them.  People are grimacing at their recent SUV purchases in the face of soaring fuel costs.  He also points out the obvious disconnect between Premier Campbell’s carbon tax and the Gateway Project of expanded highways and bridges.

Take the Gateway project. The premier’s vision to streamline truck and auto traffic with new perimeter roads, the construction of a tolled bridge over the Fraser and the twinning of the Port Mann Bridge exists on the premise that traffic will increase to the point of gridlock in the near future.

That the provincial government is spending billions to promote more vehicular traffic while introducing a carbon tax seems a little illogical, but forget that for the moment. There’s a greater, unintended logic within it.

He then goes on to illustrate how gas prices have done more than the carbon tax to change our driving behaviour:

But a greater impact may be just down the road. A recent CIBC study I mentioned in Saturday’s column predicted there would be 10 million fewer cars on the road in the U.S. within five years, and 700,000 fewer in Canada.

If that prediction becomes reality, and if gas prices go even higher and have a greater impact on traffic growth, then the need for Gateway is not only in doubt, so is its economic viability. Those tolls it will depend upon to pay for its construction will be slower in coming. Those billions of dollars spent on perimeter roads and widened freeway lanes may be wasted.

Nonetheless, Gateway, Transport Minister Kevin Falcon told me Wednesday, is going to go ahead unchanged, high gas prices or not.

What? What did Kevin Falcon just say?  “Gateway is going to go ahead unchanged, high gas prices or not”?  Falcon believes technology will catch up and change all our cars to some zero-emissions vehicles (which by the way, automobile makers fought vehemently against such legislation in California many years ago).  Surrey mayor, Dianne Watts, suggests that Ministry of Transportation should recalculate their values.  No kidding given that Gateway was conceived when gas was almost half of the current pump price.

Kevin, please read Pete’s article and reconsider.  We could be using the money and resources more effectively.  Yes, some infrastructure needs upgrading like the Pitt River Bridge, but some of the other projects like the Port Mann Bridge twinning and South Fraser Perimeter Road are increasingly looking unnecessary with the way the world is changing.

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