September 12, 2013 - 3:09 PM
KELOWNA - Construction for the expansion of RapidBus to the Westside started today, with service scheduled to begin in summer 2014.
This 15-kilometre expansion includes four new transit stations and two new exchanges. This unique service is designed to provide passengers with faster, more frequent public transportation.
Premier Christy Clark was joined by Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla Dan Albas, Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country Ron Cannan, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone, West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater, Westbank First Nation Chief Robert Louie and BC Transit president and CEO Manuel Achadinha for the official groundbreaking ceremony.
"RapidBus is one of the best and most useful ways for families, students and seniors to get around quickly and affordably," said Premier Clark. "As communities grow, services must grow with them. Expanding on the success of RapidBus in Kelowna, we are committed to bringing this service to Westbank and West Kelowna."
Once the Westside expansion is complete in summer 2014, the entire RapidBus service will provide 30 kilometres of service between West Kelowna and the University of British Columbia-Okanagan (UBCO). Ridership has grown by almost 500,000 rides across the Kelowna regional transit system since RapidBus service opened in 2010. Ridership is expected to grow even more with the expansion of RapidBus to West Kelowna and Westbank First Nation.
"This important job-creating initiative will connect communities and provide more transportation options for families and commuters in the Kelowna area," said Albas. "The Government of Canada is committed to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and easing congestion by funding transit improvements that will help get commuters out of their cars and onto public transit."
This expansion will connect to the existing RapidBus service between downtown Kelowna and UBCO. The new stations will be built this fall in West Kelowna and Westbank First Nation, followed by construction of exchanges at Boucherie Mountain and Westbank Centre next year.
"This is an exciting addition to the transit system on the Westside, and Westbank First Nation is very proud to be a partner on the initiative," said Chief Louie. "Connecting the RapidBus from UBCO through the City of Kelowna to the Westside and through WFN lands will be a great benefit to our communities, members and residents."
"I know I speak on behalf of all West Kelowna residents, transit users in particular, who are looking forward to seeing this expansion proceed," said Findlater. "West Kelowna council has invested in RapidBus, and the two exchanges that will be built in the coming months will become transportation focal points in two important centres of our community."
"BC Transit is committed to delivering an efficient and effective transportation network for the region," said Achadinha. "RapidBus is an important initiative that will connect people to their destinations easier and faster than ever before."
The Kelowna RapidBus project will create more than 240 jobs, spur economic development in communities and improve transportation options for families. In total, the project will receive up to $46 million in funding from federal, provincial and local partners.
The Government of Canada is contributing up to $10.9 million from the Building Canada Fund and another $6 million from the Gas Tax Fund. The Government of B.C.
will provide $23.9 million, the City of Kelowna $5.2 million and West Kelowna is contributing land.
The federal Gas Tax Fund transfer provides long-term funding to municipalities across the country to build and revitalize their local infrastructure. The Government of Canada has invested over $10 billion to date in municipal infrastructure through this program, and passed legislation to make permanent transfers of $2 billion per year.
As part of Economic Action Plan 2013, the Government of Canada committed to index the Gas Tax Fund to provide additional funding for communities, starting in 2014.
Between 2006 and 2014, British Columbia will receive more than $1.56 billion from the Gas Tax Fund transfer to improve local infrastructure. The Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) administers the Gas Tax Fund in B.C., in collaboration with Canada and British Columbia.
For information on Kelowna RapidBus, visit: www.kelownarapidbus.ca
For information on the Westbank First Nation, visit: www.wfn.ca/
A high-resolution graphic of the RapidBus map is available to download at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bcgovphotos/9718238617
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013