Although the Kootenay region has a much smaller population base than many regions, there is a need to emphasize the importance of all transportation links throughout the region including airports, inland ferries as well as the safety of highways through the mountain passes. With a view towards regional economic development and community building, improved health care and rural education access and capitalizing on Kootenay tourism opportunities, the Chamber boards ask for a review of the transportation links and transportation corridors in the region.

The challenges faced by rural town communities can be significant with traffic delays due to avalanches and long ferry lineups and flights being cancelled into Trail and the West Kootenay Regional Airport throughout the winter months. In addition, with the Covid pandemic, the airline industry has incurred significant losses resulting in fewer flights in and out of the region. In 2021, the provincial government will be distributing $16 M to local airports to help cover operating costs for regional airport.

In 2017, a Regional Shipping and Logistics Analysis was undertaken for the Columbia Basin Trust. The scope of the project included the analysis of the shipping and logistics infrastructure in the Basin; identified of constraints and challenges to efficient operations; and assessment of impacts. The study provided recommendations on potential actions for improving regional logistics to enhance business growth and investment in the region.

In 2018, Greyhound Canada announced that all passenger and freight service would be discontinued in British Columbia. This has had a large impact on the rural travelling public and reduced their access to regional hospitals in Kelowna, Cranbrook, and hospitals in major cities both in Calgary and Vancouver.

In 2021, the BC Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries announced that the BC government is investing up to $500,000 to purchase food-processing equipment and cover other start-up costs in partnership with the Regional District of Central Kootenay for a “Food Hub”. The food hub will help small- and medium- scaled businesses access shared food and beverage processing space and equipment to increase their production and sales in and out of the region.

Kootenay region residents appreciate the progress that has been made along Highway 3 including passing lane upgrades, avalanche management in the Kootenay Pass and with the ongoing building of a new ferry. Local residents have experienced travel time savings from Creston to the Alberta border. The additional upgrades over the years to the Creston airport have facilitated 100 medivac trips, in 2020 to Kelowna and other major health centers.

The opportunities:

  • Ensure that the regional airports and city airports remain equipped with modern technology and that their infrastructure be maintained in order to serve the general population and businesses in the region.
  • Ensure that there is a viable transportation network for the residents, tourists, trucking and courier companies within the supply change network; to travel in and out of the region along Highway 3, 3A, 3B corridor. Ensure the enhancements of the transportation links facilitate cold chain logistics to allow food produce sales in and out of the region.
  • Ensure that the region residents understand the financial impacts based on reduced travel time and the financial impacts based on the additional tourism that would occur along Highway 3 corridor which includes all section of 3A, 3B and the financial impacts (positive/negative) on affected communities.
  • Ensure that the region residents understand the energy savings for the reduction in travel time and the reduction in the number of cars using the using the Kootenay Pass.

Background

The number of tourists and summer only residents have increased significantly in the region. They discovered that working remotely was possible. Changing customer demographics are driving expectations for better transportation and logistics links that can deliver goods in a cost effective and timely manner. The Greyhound Bus business closure and the transportation challenges and logistics issues are driving the airport and bussing study requirements.

In 2011, the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure commissioned an Economic Impact Study of Highway 3, and portions of HWY 3A and 3B. The Highway 3 Corridor study included approx. 840 km of highway between Hope and the Alberta border and approximately 320 km of Highway 3A and 3B between trail and Castlegar. Excluded from the study was the economic impact of Hwy 3A along the East Shore of Kootenay Lake and the along the West Arm to Nelson. There has also been changes to the Creston routing of the bypass:

  1. Preliminary Kootenay Lake Chamber of Commerce studies conducted in in 2020 indicated that relocating the Kootenay Lake Ferry economic terminal from Balfour to Queen’s Bay would have ranked the second highest economic opportunity along this corridor in the 2011 study. It now ranks as the number one economic opportunity based on travel time saving and the highest potential for expansion of tourism activity due to travel time savings on the Highway 3 corridor. The KL studies used the MOTI microBenCost methodology, the same as Hwy 3 Corridor study. If MOTI conducted the studies in 2021, the opportunities will be approx. 50% higher in economic benefits.
  2. The Creston Hwy 3A reroute, now known as the Creston realignment is now the 2nd highest ranked economic opportunity based on anticipated travel time saving. A new study should also include the impact to small communities and how would they be addressed.
  3. The study should determine the energy savings for the reduction in travel time and the reduction in the number of vehicles using the Kootenay Pass.

Re-alignment and other opportunities identified by the Hwy 3 Mayors and Chairs Coalition. This would include the economics of the anticipated direct travel time saving impacts and the economic impact of increased tourism in the impacted regions. The study should include an assessment of the energy savings, CO2 reduction and impact to local communities.

The BC Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries recently announced a “Food Hub” in the Creston region, making transportation infrastructure improvements even more imperative as well as a cold chain logistics study.

Project Scope

The project scope entails several studies that can be packaged into one or more studies. A 10-to-15-year vision of our regional transportation and logistics systems should be provided. The following studies are proposed:

  • Regional (Municipal/Provincial/Federal) airport services- firefighting, medivac, tourists.
  • Regional bussing services.
  • An updated 2011 Highway 3 Corridor study a review of the Kootenay Lake Ferry and Creston Realignment and other opportunities identified by the Hwy 3 Mayor and Chairs Coalition.
  • Regional cold storage logistics.

Environmental considerations

  • The energy savings have not been established with the new diesel driven ferry. It is known that it takes only 3 to 5% of the ferry traffic travelling around Kootenay Pass to make up for distance for the extra 3.5 km that vehicles need to travel.
  • The energy savings for the Creston Realignment have not been established.

Service considerations

  • The airport study would identify the improvements in service to the communities and the anticipated increase in economic, health and firefighting opportunities.
  • The HWY 3 study would identify the improvements in service to the communities based on travel time savings and the increased ferry availability.
  • The bussing study would identify the improvements in service to the communities.

Stakeholders’ considerations

At this time what is being proposed are studies and the stakeholder impacts should be identified as part of the studies.

Economics Capital and Operating Costs

  • The bussing study costs have not been determined.
  • The airport study costs have not been determined.
  • Preliminary discussions with Philip Davies Transportation have indicated that a 2011 Highway 3 Corridor equivalent study would cost approx. $120 to $140K. The Kootenay Lake Chamber study indicated ferry time travel savings of approximately $ 20M (25-year timeframe) based on 2011 study inputs. A 20-minute improvement indicates an increase in tourism income of over $200M over a 25-year period for the region. The income benefits would be significantly less, however income benefits would be realized from both the east and west directions. Additional income benefits are achieved in the forestry and agricultural sectors.

THE CHAMBER RECOMMENDS

That the Provincial Government:

  1. Work with Transport Canada to invest in the air transport logistics in the region and determine the opportunities for improvement in Cranbrook, Creston, Nelson, Trail and Castlegar.
  2. Invest regional bussing to facilitate travel to our health centers in the region.
  3. Update their 2011 study that was conducted on the HWY 3 corridor and include the Kootenay Lake Ferry, the Creston Highway
  4. Through the BC Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, study cold change services to facilitate food delivery in and outside the region.
  5. Provide a multi-year vision of Kootenay regional transportation and logistics.