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Bighorn transportation study loses gas

"The idea for regional transportation is not lost but there are urgent and important priorities that supersede transportation needs right now."
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BIGHORN – An MD of Bighorn transportation study has stalled out after a provincial grant dedicated to fund half of the project was cancelled.

More than a year after the province announced $14,400 for a transit feasibility study in the MD of Bighorn, the application has been withdrawn after the UPC government eliminated the Alberta Communtiy Transit (ACT) grant under the province's Climate Leadership Plan in the 2020 budget.

"The MD received confirmation from the grants administration (Alberta Transportation) in early December that the ACT fund has been eliminated in the 2019 Budget and therefore the MD's application for the Transportation Assessment project did not receive provincial funding," MD Chief Administration Officer Robert Ellis wrote in an emailed statement. 

With no regional transit between the MD hamlets, including Exshaw, Dead Man's Flats, Harvie Heights or Lac Des Arcs, the study was meant to fund the initial step of a cost-analysis and a needs assessment to move toward establishing a new transit route or stops in the hamlets.

At the time, the representing MLA said he was aware of staffing concerns from business owners in the Bighorn area, attracting new hires and staff retention with the lack of regional transit.

Part of the study was meant to research the benefits of adding regional Roam transit stops, the local regional transit system that was introduced to the Bow Valley in 2011. Roam currently has local transit in Banff and Canmore, as well as regional routes between the two communities and additional stops in Lake Louise, and Johnston Canyon and Lake Minnewanka in the summer.

But with the grant dead in the water, officials said the decision was made to not proceed with the project.

MD Reeve Dene Cooper said the original concept was to have 50/50 funding for the grant, but with the grant now dead and the project on the backburner, the municipal district is more concerned with the other budget cuts affecting Bighorn.

One of the changes announced last year included the new funding model for rural policing, asking rural municipalities to kick in 10 per cent of costs, resulting in an estimated $66,850 additional cost for 2020 for the MD – increasing to more than $200,000 by 2023.

Another troubling budget change was the elimination of the Alberta Community Resiliency Program (ACRP) meaning no new funding will be available for flood mitigation projects – leaving Phase Two of Jura Creek up in the air.

"The idea for regional transportation is not lost, but there are urgent and important priorities that supersede transportation needs right now," Cooper said.