The Liberal government committed to a 10-year transportation plan for British Columbia in its last Throne Speech, a pledge that suggested a vision beyond the current skirmish over transit in the Lower Mainland, but there was little indication from Tuesday's budget about what the plan might hold.
Funds for new light rail to Surrey or a SkyTrain connection to the University of British Columbia weren't in Tuesday's budget. There was also little money set aside to build new infrastructure to support a liquified natural gas boom expected across the north of the province.
With many of the Liberals' marquee transportation projects nearly complete, department officials said the new decade-long transportation plan should be unveiled some time in the next year. However, that came as little relief for those looking for a clear vision for transportation.
"There are a lot of things missing in this budget. Where's the money for new made-in-B.C. ferries or new light rail?" asked Phil Venoit, president of the Vancouver Island branch of the B.C. trades council.
The only new major transportation project to get any dedicated funds in the budget was the planned replacement of the Massey Tunnel. More than $71-million was set aside to prepare the project.
The tunnel joining Richmond and Delta was opened by the Queen in 1959. Now it's one of the main bottlenecks around Vancouver. Construction of a replacement bridge is scheduled to begin in 2017.
While few details are available on the bridge, the government has indicated in the past that the Port Mann Bridge could serve as an inspiration for the new structure.
The budget also included $299-million over the next three years to finish the construction of the SkyTrain's Evergreen line. Already under construction, the line will link downtown Vancouver to the sprawling suburbs east of the city.
"I expected to see more of a hint of the government's priorities in the budget," said Iain Black, president of the Vancouver Board of Trade. "The future of the Lower Mainland relies on being able to move people and goods easily and efficiently."
With only a $184-million surplus expected in the coming year, the government hasn't given itself a thick financial margin with which it could fund large future projects.
According to Mr. Black, more details could emerge from the government in the next few weeks. "This is the time to act," he said, referring to last week's announcement of $14-billion in new infrastructure funds by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Part of the New Building Canada Plan, a $53-billion fund conceived to deal with gridlock and sinkholes across the country, will soon be available for projects such as those being fought over in the Lower Mainland and elsewhere in the province.
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