Premier Christy Clark announced $15 million for highway safety improvements in a speech to Vancouver Island business leaders Wednesday, and dangled the prospect of liquefied natural gas export jobs as well.
In a speech to the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance Summit in Nanaimo, Clark said not everyone expected her to return for this year’s event, before her upset win in the election in May. Vancouver Island was the only region where the B.C. Liberal government lost ground under Clark’s leadership, with the party shut out of the populous southern region around the capital Victoria.
The highway commitment is for 2.3 km of centre barrier on Highway 1 from Shawnigan Lake to the Malahat summit, an extended passing lane and improvements to two intersections. Work is to begin next year.
Clark said when it is completed, half of the Malahat corridor will be protected by dividers, including an area near Shawnigan Lake known locally as “NASCAR corner” where vehicles speed to pass before the road narrows.
Transportation Minister Todd Stone said the Malahat safety improvements are an early step towards a larger Vancouver Island transportation strategy that has not yet been revealed. The ministry completed an engineering study of the Malahat corridor last year.
As she prepares for an Asian trade mission focused on liquefied natural gas exports, Clark said there is “very real interest” from Korean investors in LNG exports from Port Alberni. She said other proposals are in the works for Campbell River, either of which wool require expansion of existing gas pipeline capacity that currently serves domestic gas demand.