Government representatives and BC Transit gathered to break ground on a new transit operations facility in Campbell River Thursday afternoon.
Local MLA and Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claire Trevena, Mayor Andy Adams, Interim BC Transit CEO and President Erinn Pinkerton and the city’s Director of Operations Drew Hadfield each grabbed a helmet and shovel to toss some dirt to officially begin the project at the site on Evergreen Road. BC Transit will be building an operations and maintenance facility as part of a plan for future expansion of transit in the city.
Trevena said she had been pleased to make a number of announcements around public transit in the province lately but was especially happy to be in her own community.
“It’s fantastic to be at an announcement in my own constituency, here in Campbell River,” she said.
She referred to these announcements as “good news” stories because of BC Transit’s expansion and investment in communities, pointing out the need for a new facility in the city as a sign of growth.
“The fact that it has outgrown its old facility is a wonderful problem for any organization to have,” she said. “People are looking at public transit as a real alternative. It is, as we all know, a greener way of getting around.”
Trevena noted public transit use in the community has grown by 91 per cent since 2000 but admitted some people were not happy with service changes earlier in the year.
“People were unhappy with this, but it seems that … people are getting used to it,” she added.
For the federal government, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Amarjeet Sohi could not attend but sent his greetings, which Hadfield read at the outset of the event.
Of the $15-million project, announced in 2016, approximately 83 per cent of construction costs is provided by the federal and provincial governments through the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund (PTIF). The remainder of construction is covered by the city. Land and other costs not covered by PTIF funding will be split between the city and the province.
The goal is to begin site preparation soon, with construction to follow for a target of late spring 2019 for the opening.
“We can’t wait to get the foundation done [and] the walls up, before the rainy season starts,” Adams said.
The facility will provide a home for transit operations and include three maintenance bays, a bus wash and space for a future fleet of up to 50 vehicles.
With several other members of council in attendance, Adams highlighted the need for transit to help the local economy, in particular as a means of transportation for students at North Island College and all of its campuses, as well as K-12 schools in the local school district.
“We certainly looked forward to this addition to our community,” he said.
Pinkerton echoed Trevena’s comments about the number of transit announcements lately and pointed to the importance of all the parties involved in making these projects happen.
“Our model is built on the success of partnerships,” she said, adding that she applauded the city for investing now in the long-term needs of transit.
“Projects like these are tough to get off the ground,” she said. “It’s a big capital cost up front. Residents and customers don’t see a change right away.”
As far as a review of local transit around routes, schedules and other aspects of service, Hadfield said following the event that major changes in response to public feedback will not likely happen until the next round of expansion in approximately a year-and-a-half, though there could be some less significant adjustments this fall.
“We will be looking at making some minor changes,” he said.