Bus service connecting Prince George to Highway 16 starts next week

New B.C. Transit services connecting Prince George to Burns Lake and Smithers on HIghway 16 will hit the road next week.

Trips between Prince George and Burns Lake will run on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The run from Burns Lake to Prince George will be in the morning, starting at 7 a.m. at the Wet'suwet'en First Nation just west of the community and cover the 230-kilometre distance in 3 1/2 hours.

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The trip back to Burns Lake starts at 3 p.m. Pickup points in the city are at 7th and Dominion, University Hospital of Northern B.C., Pine Centre and Westgate.

The routes between Burns Lake and Smithers will operate on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The bus will leave Burns Lake at 6:46 a.m. and arrive in Houston at 8:33 a.m. and Smithers at 9:38 a.m.

The bus will complete a midday round trip from Smithers to Houston then back to Smithers, starting at 11:30 a.m. It leaves Smithers once again 3 p.m. and goes all the way back to Burns Lake, arriving there at 5:53 p.m.

The one-way fare will be $5 per segment.

The services are the latest edition to what proponents hope is a service stretching the entire length of Highway 16 West, from Prince George to Prince Rupert.

Eighteen women have been murdered or have disappeared along the stretch - also known as the Highway of Tears - and adjacent routes since the 1970s.

"We are extremely pleased that there are more safe travel options for the north," said Carrier Sekani Family Services executive director Mary Teegee in a statement. "I applaud the work of municipalities, First Nations and government to launch the new transit services. This is a good example of true partnership and effective collaboration."

Federal, provincial and local governments have committed $6.4 million over three years to the plan to connect 21 communities along the 750-kilometre stretch.

It also includes a grant program to help communities north and south of the highway buy shuttle vehicles, a First Nations driver education program - to boost the number of Class 4 and 5 drivers in those communities - as well as webcams and bus shelters.

The first leg, between Smithers and Moricetown, began running on January 30 and B.C. Transit said it is being used daily by many passengers.

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