Here's an article from the Vancouver sun that really explains the man in charge of the Ministry of Highways. Yes, I mean Highways. Most of the article is about his cars but there are a few points that he mentions about the road expansions he's planning. I'm not interested in the car they are advertising, but it kind of explains why he's so interested in roads and highways, whereas transit is a distant afterthought.
From Friday's Automotive Section. 2007/12/28
Who better to pave British Columbia into the 21st century than a self-confessed sports car freak?
Andrew McCredie, Special to The Sun
Published: Friday, December 28, 2007
In this monthly series , automotive writer Andrew McCredie kicks some new-vehicle tires and goes for a ride with high-profile British Columbians from the world of entertainment, sports, business and politics.
- - -
FIRST car: "My first car was a 1967 Ford Fairlane, 390, factory four-speed. Apparently that car was once known as the Widow Maker because it came off the assembly line with a lot of horsepower. I loved it. My friends and I were really into cars so we tore the engine apart, bored it out and put in some heavy-duty pistons. It was the fastest car in high school."
SECOND CAR: "I hung on to the Fairlane for a few years, then I bought a '63 Corvette convertible. It was baby blue, but I had it repainted back to its original Riverside Red. It had a 327 with a four-speed and it was just a wonderful car."
CURRENT CAR: "A 2003 Nissan Pathfinder. The only real reason I have it is because of my job. I spend a lot of time on construction sites and driving around the province, especially in the north and sometimes in some treacherous conditions. I've put about 130,000 kilometres on it. It's been a great vehicle -- it's got the feel of a car inside -- but I'm still a sports car guy at heart."
DREAM CAR: "I met a guy at a dinner a little while ago, and we started talking and he was a car buff too. He had a Ferrari F430 Spider, the newest one. He said he'd take me for a ride, so one day I was down at the Waterfront Hotel and had about an hour gap between appointments. He picked me up and we went for a ride, and it was beautiful. Just beautiful. So, I'd have to say a new Ferrari."
- - -
The parting advice Herb Mills, of MCL Motors, offered when I picked up the 2007 Aston Martin V8 Vantage from the Kitsilano candy store, er, luxury car dealership, was, "Keep your foot in it."
Premier Gordon Campbell may very well have uttered the same advice to Kevin Falcon when he appointed the Surrey-Cloverdale MLA minister of transportation on Jan. 26, 2004.
Since then, less than three years ago, Falcon has become the poster boy for not only Metro Vancouver's contentious Gateway Project, but for the many and varied large-scale highway improvement jobs currently under way in B.C.
These include the Sea to Sky Highway, the Kicking Horse Canyon and the William Bennett Bridge. The total sticker price is in the billions.
Once all the disparate patches of asphalt are widened and neatly tied together and the Port Mann twinned, the Gateway Project alone is expected to go north of $3 billion.
Clearly, Falcon has kept his foot "in it" when it comes to his day job. And when we went for a spin in the new Aston Martin in and around the MLA's constituency one Saturday morning, the self-confessed sports car freak had little trouble keeping his running shoe on the brushed-aluminum gas pedal.
That doesn't mean we were speeding, we weren't -- though on one occasion and on a totally empty stretch of highway, Kevin did test the Vantage's V8 acceleration. The reason you keep your foot "in it" when driving this exquisite sports car is the car's unique sportshift feature. The Vantage is equipped with a six-speed manual transmission, a wildly state-of-the-art gearbox with an electro-hydraulic clutch control that harnesses the 380 horsepower 4.3-litre V8 mid-mounted powerplant.
There are two ways to shift, either manually using the elegant forged-magnesium paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel, or by letting the car do all the shifting, in so-called "auto shift."
It was in this mode that Falcon did most of the driving. And he mastered the technique of keeping his foot on the pedal as the car went up and down the gears.
At first a little disconcerting, the effect of the clutch automatically engaging and adding a gear as you keep your foot firmly on the pedal is not unlike playing a high-end video racing game. In other words, it's a blast.
And Falcon was clearly having a blast as we drove around much of the patchwork highway quilt that is being expanded, upgraded and sewn together by his ministry.
In this area south of the Fraser River alone, $210 million is being invested in Highway 10 and Highway 15 improvements. Like a proud father, Falcon points out the new concrete infrastructure as we zip along Highway 10.
"Number 10 Highway is a major truck route and when the improvements are done we'll have four lanes all the way to Langley," he says as the Aston picks up speed and the exhaust note rumbles the cockpit-like cabin.
"And 176th Street, a two-lane road that goes to the fourth busiest border crossing in the country, is going to become a four lane and hook right into the TransCanada [highway]."
Falcon is the highest profile and most active minister of transportation the province has had in the driver's seat since the legendary Phil Gaglardi paved his way into drivers' hearts during his near two-decade run back in the '50s and '60s.
Longtime premier W.A.C Bennett said of his high-flying cabinet minister: "Next to him, the Roman roadbuilders were pikers," and he declared Flyin' Phil "the world's greatest highway builder."
That title, however, is in jeopardy as Falcon, not even three years into the job (Gaglardi served as highways minister for 16 years) is flying higher than even Flyin' Phil when it comes to billion-dollar road building.
Just as Gaglardi had his critics, there are outspoken critics of Falcon's plans. Protesters of some projects portray him as a dogmatic autocrat, hell bent on paving paradise.
Falcon shrugs it off, noting he never listens to talk radio and rarely watches TV. Instead, when he's driving it's all music, all the time. "From classical to the Sex Pistols," he says.
If Falcon doesn't shy away from the at-times rough and tumble of B.C. politics, he's probably got his brothers to thank -- all five of them. The second youngest, Falcon says his siblings are also the source of his passion for cars.
"We had every kind of car when I was growing up," he says, noting his mother wasn't always pleased with a driveway that resembled a car lot most of the time. "My older brothers went through the whole seventies customized van thing, another brother had a white Trans-Am with the eagle on the front."
Hot rod magazines were tucked into his math textbooks during high school at Vancouver College.
"I was just counting down the days until I could get my licence, then when I got it I bought my first car almost immediately," he says over the purr of the Vantage's stainless-steel exhaust.
"I'd saved up money over the years from paper routes and when I was 14 I got a job at The Big Scoop."
His first car was a high-performance Ford Fairlane, and since the age of 16, the now 40-something Falcon has owned a number of similar sporty cars, from a Corvette to a VW Cabriolet to a Beemer.
"My friend Bob Vickerstaff was really good with the mechanical stuff, so we'd always be in his garage doing stuff to my cars, like boring out the engine and putting in special pistons and cams," he says.
But nothing as exotic as the Aston Martin V8 Vantage. With a base price of $134,200 (our tester topped out at $154,800 thanks to some tasty options like 19-inch wheels, the sportshift gearbox and a Nav system), the 2007 Vantage is priced to compete with Porsches and other German high performance vehicles.
In terms of refinement, technology and materials used, however, the Vantage has more in common with prancing Italian sports cars. Featuring a bonded aluminum structure draped in an aluminum alloy and magnesium alloy body, the rear-wheel drive coupe has a beautifully proportioned look and style all its own.
Thanks to the use of race-inspired dry-sump lubrication, the V8 engine is mounted low in the chassis for improved handling and cornering.
Performance numbers are impressive, with a zero to 100 km/h time of five seconds and a potential top speed of 280 km/h.
All Aston Martins -- there are four models in the 2007 stable -- are hand built in Gaydon, a village in Warwickshire, England.
Up until March of this year, Ford owned Aston Martin, but in a bid to shed some underperforming assets and to raise a little cash, the Big Three automaker sold the marquee to a private consortium committed to returning the one-time legendary sports car builder to prominence.
If the new Vantage is any indication, they're well on their way.
Like the exterior, the interior is an exercise in proportion and elegance. In lieu of a gear shift, there are three buttons mounted on the dash, identified with the letters D (for auto drive) R (for reverse) and N (for neutral). A fourth button with the Aston Martin logo is a push start ignition.
Where German sports car interiors have a somewhat cool and reserved look about them, the Aston's is warm and inviting, offering the kind of elegant luxury British motorcars are renowned for. The gauges are easy to read but with a classic feel about them, and the controls are well-positioned and in many ways intuitive to the driver.
As a onetime president of the Vancouver Junior Chamber of Commerce, Falcon is unabashedly pro-business, and no doubt agrees with another of W.A.C.'s memorable lines, this one concerning the B.C. economy: "The finest sound in the land is the ringing of cash registers."
Truck traffic, Falcon notes, is the province's lifeblood in many ways, and to that end the Gateway Project is designed to strengthen the arteries and keep things pumping along and over the U.S. border.
As to the issue of global warming, Falcon has faith that industry, with the prompting of governments, will save the day.
"I'm a great believer in the ingenuity of the human mind, and I think what we'll find is that technology is going to deal with greenhouse gas and emission issues," he says, noting how much cleaner cars are today than they were just a decade ago.
But he also says the private sector needs prodding from government to invest in new technologies.
"That's why were putting $90 million into creating the first hydrogen bus fleet in the world, and we've just awarded the contracts for two hydrogen fuelling stations, one in Victoria and the other in Whistler, that we'll showcase during the Olympics."
He also lists the recent approval of "low-speed moving vehicles", electric runabouts with a top speed of around 40 km/h. Perhaps if Falcon keeps his portfolio until 2020 to equal Flyin' Phil's tenure as Minister of Transportation, we'll all be driving around in one of those.
But on this Saturday in December, Kevin Falcon seemed quite content to be behind the wheel of a sexy sports car with a speedo that goes to 330 km/h