The B.C. government is committing $3 million to improve public transit along B.C.'s so-called Highway of Tears.
The funding comes following a recent meeting between transportation officials and First Nations leaders in the area, to address concerns about the number of women who have gone missing or been murdered while hitchhiking Highway 16, which runs between Prince George and Prince Rupert.
The new transportation safety program includes:
- $1.6 million over two years to extend or enhance B.C. Transit services on a cost-shared basis with local communities.
- $750,000 over three years to purchase and operate vehicles on a cost-shared basis with local communities.
- $150,000 over three years for a First Nations driver education program for community vans.
- $500,000 over two years for highway infrastructure safety improvements including webcams and transit shelters.
- Better coordination of existing services and schedules to expand user eligibility.
"There is no one size fits all approach to addressing the challenges along the corridor and this action plan provides flexibility for communities to determine how to best apply new funding to meet their specific needs," said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone.
Shane Gottfriedson, the regional chief for the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, endorsed the plan.
"I am heartened to hear of this important first step to take action on the safety and transportation for our brothers and sisters of the north," said Gottfriedson.
"It is imperative that indigenous women do not continue to face the fear and the risk of violence when they travel."
A new nine-member advisory board made of local First Nations and municipal leaders will oversee the implementation of the plan in the coming months.
It's been three years since the Missing Women's Inquiry highlighted the need for better public transit in northern communities.
An RCMP investigation identified 18 women and girls who went missing or were murdered along Highway 16, or the nearby highways 97 and 5, since 1969.