February 15, 2018
Transportation Minister Brian Mason was the keynote speaker at a Calgary Chamber Luncheon Feb. 8 at the Hyatt Regency downtown Calgary.
While most of the talk was devoted to continued flood mitigation efforts in the Calgary area – including the proposed Springbank Off-Stream Reservoir, the Minister also updated the crowd on the latest in transportation in Alberta, including New Generation Wide Base Single Tires (NGWBST).
NGWBST were approved on provincial highways in Alberta July 2017. The AMTA continues to work with provincial municipalities to see blanket approval on the provinces roadways.
“We’ve approved the use of [NGWBST] for the transportation industry, something they wanted to do for a long time,” said Minister Mason. “It’s something that saves on fuel costs, it makes [trucks] more effective, more efficient – it very slightly increases the wear on highways.
“So, transportation departments have been reluctant to embrace this, but I think on balance – and we’ve run the numbers – and in fact the impact on our road maintenance budget is not hugely significant compared to the savings that could be realized as a result of that.”
Minister Mason also discussed his goal of changing Alberta’s traditional highway focused transportation department into a modern, ecologically driven and customer focused one.
The three main areas he said require more focus at this point are:
Re-evaluating the approach to project approvals: Minister Mason said we need to recognize that large infrastructure projects are now subject to much increased environmental scrutiny. Meeting those demands was not always given the priority it needed – early enough in the planning process. He said projects were driven by engineering concerns first, and then environmental concerns were addressed. We saw a need to bring in additional expertise to accommodate this increased burden of environmental prudence.
Consultation with Indigenous people: Minister Mason said the Supreme Court has sent a direct message there must be real and meaningful consultation with Indigenous people about how plans made by government affect their communities and traditional lands. He said the duty to consult is part of the overall approval process.
Rapid pace of technological change: Minister Mason said changes in technology now include the element of disruptive technological change which is becoming a more consistent feature. He said we know things are going to change but we don’t always know when and how and what direction things are going to go. It makes it increasingly more difficult to use predictive models and to engage in longer term planning and this is another area where Mason thinks we would need to approach things differently. He said the research that’s being invested in driverless cars is getting more and more sophisticated and he thinks they’re going to be on our roads very soon and within a number of years. It will change how we do transportation planning, he said It will change how we think about transportation.
During the question and answer period of the discussion, Minister Mason was again asked about technology.
“I want to stress that despite the developments of technology, a solid road network is essential to the economic life of our province,” he said. “We’re not backing away from that. We’re certainly going to make sure our highways, our interchanges, our bridges and so on, provide the support they need for the economic activity of this province and to help people get where they need to go in a safe and efficient way.”