The absence of federal funding will not stop the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project from moving ahead as planned.
That's the message from the provincial government following last week's federal budget that saw no money earmarked for the $3.5-billion project.
Peter Fassbender, minister of community, sport, cultural development and minister responsible for TransLink, said the province has no plans to halt or stall the project despite the lack of federal funding.
"Clearly the province and (Transportation) Minister [Todd] Stone and his ministry have made the determination to move ahead on the project without any federal funding, but suffice to say if there are any opportunities at the federal level I can assure you that Minister Stone will be all over that," Fassbender told the Optimist. "I know Minister Stone did talk with Minister Sohi [Amarjeet] a number of months ago about the Massey replacement and at that time the federal government did not feel it was a project that they would participate in the funding under the criteria of infrastructure funding. We asked the question the other day when the budget came out about Massey and whether or not in any of the new funding programs if Massey would be eligible, and they say it is not."
Fassbender said according to the feds, the project is not eligible because it is already in effect underway and the transit funding announced is for rapid transit projects on existing or new infrastructure.
Delta MP Carla Qualtrough said in a recent Optimist interview that funding might be available through the federal infrastructure bank program.
Fassbender said the province is aware of the program and has inquired about it.
"The criteria for that program is not fully established yet, but if the bridge was to qualify, even though we have started the construction process, I can assure you that Minister Stone and his team would pursue that. We are not holding back because that clarity is not there at the moment. The Massey project is moving ahead," Fassbender said.
Delta Mayor Lois Jackson said she would love to see federal funding, but is not disappointed that nothing has come for the bridge from Ottawa.
"We have a great deal of dollars coming from the feds relative to the Alex Fraser, the interchanges at Highway 17, at the weigh scales and the bottom of Nordel Way, so we have a lot of federal money coming to Delta and I'm ecstatic about that," Jackson said. "What we are doing, and have continued to do, is talk with Ottawa and all work together to try and get additional funding for the bridge and if that happens, great, but it doesn't change the situation."
Meanwhile, NDP Leader John Horgan, in an interview with News 1130 last week, said he isn't sure a 10-lane bridge is the solution to congestion relief in the tunnel, but fell short of saying he would stop the project.