Uncertain future for bridge

NDP leader would defer issue to mayors while Green's Weaver says second tunnel would be cheaper

The two B.C. political party leaders who could very well be forming the next government in the coming days are certainly making it sound like the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project will be scrapped, but where that leaves commuters having to deal with the daily bottleneck at the tunnel is unclear.

Earlier this week New Democrat leader John Horgan, who has not stated whether he's outright opposed to the $3.5 billion project, said it's not likely the best plan and that he would defer the issue to the region's mayors.

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The region's mayors, as well as Metro Vancouver, have already stated their opposition, indicating the 10-lane bridge is unnecessary.

Interviewed on CKNW radio Wednesday, Green leader Andrew Weaver claimed a second tunnel would be "much cheaper" and also that the new bridge was not part of an overall transportation plan.

Saying congestion would be transferred to the Oak Street Bridge, the Green leader noted what is needed is a comprehensive strategy in Metro Vancouver for transportation that includes public transportation, bridge retrofits, and may include a second tunnel.

Larry Colero, the Green's candidate for Delta South in the election, said he believes the sooner construction is halted the better.

"We need to cut our losses and avoid taking on any further contract commitments. It was a reckless idea from the start, and B.C. needs to go back to square one to assess other options that will more effectively reduce congestion," he said. "I am confident that there are better alternatives that won't end up costing us $12 billion in total, including interest on the debt. A quick and workable solution in the meantime is to restrict truck traffic during rush hours."

Ian Paton, the Liberal-elect MLA for Delta South said it would be a huge disappointment for Ladner, Tsawwassen and South Surrey motorists having to sit through heavy tunnel congestion every day if the well thought out project was delayed or scrapped.

He noted that work has already begun widening Highway 99.

NDP-elect MLA for Delta North Ravi Kahlon said that there is no question there are traffic and congestion issues throughout the region, but that the NDP is not committed to moving that congestion to the next bridge.

"We want to have a regional plan that looks at traffic congestion overall and then figure out what the capacity is in the region," Kahlon said. "It doesn't make sense to put a 10-lane bridge there, with no financing by the way. It's unclear where the financing is."

"It is unclear what the environmental impacts are, so the uncertainty comes from the lack of information from the Liberal government. We need to review the books, take our time and look through this and figure out the best solution," he said.

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson this week expressed frustration that the project could be stopped, and that there's been so much misinformation, noting the aging tunnel, which doesn't meet current seismic standards, only has a few more useful years of life. Having to build another tunnel a few years from now once a second tunnel was built instead of a bridge would be an big waste of money, she said.

"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.

Jackson said the bridge would have far fewer impacts on farming or the river compared to another tunnel. Delta and project officials have also warned a strong earthquake will render the current crossing useless or completely destroyed, leaving Delta cut off from its neighbours.

The Liberal government said it's estimated about 9,000 direct jobs would be created over the life of the project.

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