It’s looking like other Lower Mainland’s cities will have a say in killing the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project.
Shortly after all 44 elected B.C. New Democrat and Green MLAs ratified an agreement today pledging to work together to support a new NDP minority government, potential premier John Horgan during a press conference cast doubt on the future of the 10-lane bridge project.
The alliance could mean the end of the $3.5 billion project, which has already commenced, with Horgan saying it’s not likely the best plan and that he would defer the issue to the region’s mayors.
The Green Party during the election promised to suspend the project and review alternatives.
While Horgan has not stated outright opposition to the project, putting it in the hands of the mayors would be bad news for bridge proponents as the other mayors, including Richmond as well as Metro Vancouver, have stated their opposition. Delta has wholeheartedly supported the project, standing alone against the other cities.
The aging tunnel, which is under provincial jurisdiction, unlike structures such as the Pattullo Bridge which is under the purview of TransLink, is not in the Mayors’ Council 10-year vision or any other long-term plans.
According to the Liberal government, the 58-year-old tunnel has about 10 years of life remaining, has seismic issues, while a twin tunnel would have bigger impacts on farmland and the environment.
Mayor Lois Jackson is concerned the project could be stopped in its tracks, noting a lot of misinformation has been spread about it.
“The mayors have not talked about this bridge, ever, and they do not intend to talk about the bridge, ever. They want to talk about their own programs. They want to talk about the Pattullo Bridge replacement. They want to talk about the (rapid transit) line in Vancouver and line out in Surrey. They do not, have not and will not ever talk about the replacement of the George Massey Tunnel,” she said.
“It’s very unfortunate we have not had the news coverage in a lot of the media areas about the tunnel…people have made a lot of decisions based on misinformation. It’s unfortunate Mr. Horgan is listening to others who are not informed and I really hope he informs himself about the facts and go through the 5,000 pages that have been put together, scientifically, most of it, and engineering-wise to support the need and the construction.”
Wondering why Horgan would defer the decision to the regional mayors because the tunnel and Highway 99 corridor are provincial responsibilities, Delta CAO George Harvie also said he hopes a new alliance government would carefully go over all the studies and engineering work that’s already gone into the replacement.
“Our position is we’re hoping it wouldn’t be stopped, but the people have spoken in this democracy. The fact is they have the right to review the project and make any decisions they feel is in the best interests of the province,” he said.
“We will hope, should they become the leading party, they will be privy to studying all the facts associated with the engineering, and the need and the traffic congestion, and, most importantly, the limited life the tunnel has left,” Harvie said.
Harvie noted he hopes a new government will at least go through the procurement exercise to get the final numbers.
He added there’s also a need to ensure all the road and transit improvements on the network in the Lower Mainland are tied together, a message he conveyed to representatives from the Mayors’ Council at Delta council this week.
Jordan Bateman, communications director for the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, told the Optimist they found Horgan’s and Green leader Andrew Weaver’s comments discouraging, noting they appear out of touch with the situation on the ground.
"This is a tunnel that needs to be replaced. A lot of money has already been spent on improvements and to simply dismiss it out of hand because it was a B.C. Liberal project shows you that they are more interested in power than looking at issue-by-issue as they said before,” he said.
As for Horgan consulting with the other mayors, Bateman said, “"I’m not sure why they are taking the words of the mayor of Vancouver or New Westminster or Port Coquitlam over the word of the mayor of Delta. Even Richmond, the three ridings all went B.C. Liberal, and this was supposed to be the area that would be most negatively affected by a Massey expansion, which we know and anyone who lives south of the Fraser, as I do, is nonsense. John Horgan will listen to his NDP mayors I suppose, but not the one in Delta who has been championing this project for a long time.”
Bateman added Horgan and Weaver “snickered at blue collar workers in this province.”