Opinion: Fraser River crossing at crossroads

With a 10-lane bridge looking more and more like it will never make it past the drawing board, the big question now becomes: What, if anything, is next?

Although the NDP government hasn’t come out and formally quashed the $3.5-billion Liberal megaproject, it sounds like it’s only a matter of time before that happens, leaving what has been described as B.C.’s worst bottleneck in limbo. Not long ago that would have been a massive concern as the former government’s ambitious undertaking was the only light at the end of the tunnel, but that might not be the case any longer.

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In years past the Mayors’ Council wouldn’t even look at the George Massey Tunnel, calling it a provincial responsibility and leaving it out of any regional transportation plan. That stance appears to have softened -- whether that’s because it’s largely a new group of mayors or because they feel they’ve got the ear of those in Victoria – which means we’re no longer in an all or nothing kind of scenario.

We’ve got new Delta Mayor George Harvie buoyed by the fact the Mayors’ Council is willing to entertain crossing ideas, we’ve got Richmond writing the province asking it to address the tunnel and we’ve got the premier and transportation minister suggesting we need a solution that fits within a regional context.

It sounds like we’re in the early days of finding an alternative to the 10-lane bridge, which immediately raises questions about what kind of crossing it will be and when it will be in place.

Discussions around the scope of the project will be crucial as it’s likely to be the only infrastructure investment in that area for generations. If we get it wrong, Deltans will be stuck with the consequences for decades. As far as timing goes, given it took about four years to get from concept to ground breaking on the bridge, and it was going to take another five years to actually build the thing, we could be talking another decade or more before we see a new crossing bring any relief.

For those stuck in tunnel traffic every day, that’s a real kick in the teeth, but if you’re looking at this from a glass half full perspective, it’s better that political leaders are musing about the possibilities than not having those conversations at all.

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