As part of a larger zero-emissions and clean transportation strategy, the federal government is including pedestrians, cyclists and skiers in its list of infrastructure funding recipients
In a Canadian first, the federal government is designating specific funds to finance infrastructure for non-motorized modes of transportation across Canada. Infrastructure and communities minister Catherine McKenna and Halifax MP Andy Fillmore announced last week in a joint statement from Ottawa and Halifax, respectively, the Liberal government is nearly quadrupling the pool of money available to finance bridges, trails, bike paths and pedestrian walkways over the next five years.
The $400 million — which is taken from the federal government’s umbrella $14.9-billion public transit infrastructure fund — is a marked increase from the $130 million the government spent in over 126 similar, human-powered infrastructure initiatives since 2015.
In a statement, McKenna said, “This investment will make it easier for more people to get around on foot, bikes, scooters, wheelchairs and e-bikes.”
Fillmore, who is also parliamentary secretary to McKenna, said in a press conference that the fund would apply to “anything at all that removes barriers to accessible movement of people by their own power.” He went on to specify, “This fund is going to help to build new and expanded networks of bike lanes, walking trails, pedestrian bridges, and support repairs to existing active transportation infrastructure.”
The money could also be used to study the needs of rural communities interested in expanding or establishing walking paths, bike lanes or similar initiatives. Rural communities are notoriously underfunded when it comes to human-powered transportation infrastructure. This fund could help fill that gap.
Ongoing assessments to be made
In addition to announcing the funding plans, McKenna and Fillmore launched “stakeholder engagement” for the Active Transportation Strategy, which will assess ongoing needs (repairs, expansion and maintenance) while strategizing about how to make communities across Canada more walkable, cyclist-friendly and environmentally sustainable long term.
“The strategy will be informed by input from the public and key stakeholders including provinces, territories, municipalities, Indigenous communities and not-for-profit organizations and businesses,” reads the government’s webpage dedicated to the program. It’s unclear at this point who or what stakeholders specifically will be involved in the consultations or if it will be a set or rotating working group.
But the strategy’s guiding mandate is to “coordinate active transportation investments that reflect best practice planning, design, regulations, and standards across levels of government, Indigenous communities, not-for-profits and the private sector” and communities from Victoria to Halifax are now wondering how the money will be allocated. Those details, officials say, will be coming later this year.