Sketch of 10-lane bridge to replace George Massey Tunnel, which a local MLA says would be half built by now if the original toll bridge plan hadn’t been cancelled. (B.C. Ministry of Transportation)

B.C. VIEWS: Massey crossing a bridge too far for NDP

Premier John Horgan focused on high-speed train to Seattle

Embracing a recommendation by Metro Vancouver mayors for a new eight-lane tunnel to replace the traffic-choked four-lane George Massey tunnel is a choice the B.C. NDP government may regret.

One of the first major decisions of Premier John Horgan and Transportation Minister Claire Trevena on taking office in 2017 was to scrap plans for a 10-lane bridge. A bridge similar to the new Port Mann crossing would have been well underway by now. Instead, the NDP government chose to make a hugely expensive point about avoiding tolls and consulting with the quarrelsome councils of the Lower Mainland.

Delta South B.C. Liberal MLA Ian Paton has been a fierce critic of delays in fixing what everyone agrees is the worst traffic bottleneck in the province. Like many others, he was surprised that floating new tunnel sections into the Lower Fraser, sinking them and linking them, is the new plan.

Paton estimates that the bridge would be half done by now, and starting from scratch with engineering and environmental work for a tunnel means relief for commuters is now 10 years away. An eight-lane bridge would benefit from engineering work already done.

RELATED: Delta council warns of decade of tunnel delays, rejection

RELATED: Metro task force recommends eight-lane Massey tunnel

The tunnel requires removal of 1.5 million cubic metres of salt-contaminated soil to trench the river bottom, which would somehow have to be stabilized for earthquake safety along with the lengthy approaches from both sides. This in-river work invokes federal fisheries law, forcing construction into a narrow summer window. That’s if it gets environmental approval, which could take three years or more.

Then there’s the money. Horgan won his bare minority government on a promise to remove tolls from the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges, moving their massive debt onto the province’s capital budget. A “business case” for the new project may take a year, so the usual string of pre-election announcements in 2021 may not be well received.

And obviously the NDP’s union-only public construction model weighs heavily on projects like this. After a huge overrun on a short piece of Trans-Canada Highway widening near Revelstoke, the ministry insists it is on budget for its four-lane replacement of the four-lane Pattullo Bridge. We’ll see.

As the municipal task force was gathering to make their surprise choice to reject a down-scaled bridge that looks like the logical option, Horgan was asked if his government was wasting time.

“I wouldn’t say for a second that it’s been a waste of time,” Horgan said, adding that he met with the mayor of Delta and was looking forward to financing whatever the mayors want. Trevena repeated the comments a few hours later, after the tunnel recommendation emerged. First it has to be costed, then go to cabinet, then the Treasury Board to find the money as the province teeters on the edge of returning to deficits.

The next day Horgan was off to Seattle to once again join Gov. Jay Inslee in pitching a bullet train from Portland to Vancouver, at unimaginable cost. Horgan put $600,000 toward a “business case” for that, which found that eventually it “may be viable” if routes and state-federal governance can be figured out.

Drivers stuck in the Massey tunnel for the next decade will have time to admire a $40 million spruce-up of our 60-year-old earthquake trap. Scheduled for completion by the end of 2020, it includes new paint, lighting, drainage to keep ice from forming, and a good washing of the dank interior walls.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press Media. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

New film probes funding of anti-oil activism

The work of researcher Vivian Krause has been compiled into film format… Continue reading

Climate, reconciliation and industry top all candidates agenda in Terrace

Debate was the candidate’s last opportunity to address voters in a public forum

Climate change, economy and reconciliation take centre stage at Oct. 15 All-Candidates Forum

Six of the eight candidates were in attendance at the Smithers event

Renewal plan for 9th to be subject of meeting

District, businesses to consider options

Second young woman dies after rollover crash near Williams Lake

‘Someone’s going to get her heart, which is awesome, because she has the best heart in the world’

Google searches for ‘how to vote’ surge on Election Day

Interest spikes despite social media campaign by Elections Canada

Alberta man pleads guilty, fined for hunting without a licence in North Island

It’s the responsibility of each hunter or angler to know whether they are considered a B.C. Resident.

B.C. mayor apologizes for removal of Queen’s portrait from council chambers

‘I prefer to be inclusive of the many aspects of our history’

Alcohol a possible factor in crash that killed 17-year-old girl near Williams Lake

A pickup truck left the road and rolled over on Highway 20 on the weekend

Rare bird spotted in Victoria draws enthusiasts from across the continent

It’s the first time a yellow-browed warbler has been reported on the mainland of North America

B.C. woman must pay $1,000 after unleashed dog bites another

Owner should never have left Bibi unattended, tribunal member wrote

Climate activist Greta Thunberg’s mural defaced in Edmonton

The eyes on the portrait were blacked out

Most Read