Opinion: Light still dim at end of tunnel

With all the recent discussion about an eight-lane tunnel, including last week’s endorsement of the idea by the Metro Vancouver board, you’d think a new Fraser River crossing is getting tantalizingly close. If only that was the reality.

There’s definitely work taking place on the file, but when that will amount to anything, and how much of a benefit it will ultimately be for commuters, are two questions that are still very much up in the air at this point.

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Although federal candidates fell over themselves to offer financial support during last month’s campaign and regional politicians are adamant their voices be heard, there’s no getting around the fact this is a provincial issue -- and that’s a problem because the provincial government is on a timeline all its own.

Despite killing the previous Liberal government’s 10-lane bridge project more than two years ago, we’re still a year away from the NDP government coming up with a business case for its preferred option. Once that choice is finalized, it will be on to a lengthy environmental review followed by an even lengthier construction period.

The review is pegged at three years, which will undoubtedly take longer, and the five years earmarked for construction is more than likely a best case scenario, so it’s difficult to see a new crossing opening any time before 2030, which might be just fine for the NDP.

Perhaps I’m being cynical here, but by bogging down a tunnel replacement in a prolonged environmental review, the government can say it’s moving forward with a new crossing without having to expend any serious dollars. With a number of expensive transportation and hospital projects already on the books, it’s not a stretch to think that Victoria wouldn’t mind holding off putting shovels in the ground out here for a while.

Too much of a conspiracy theory for you? Possibly, but how do you explain taking up almost an entire four-year term just to come up with a crossing option, particularly given the voluminous study that has already been done on the issue? I guess it could be chalked up to thoroughness, although disinterest and incompetence also come to mind.

There’s definitely light at the end of the tunnel, but it would be nice if it was a little brighter.

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