Opinion: Preferred crossing might never get beyond the drawing board

The road to a new Fraser River crossing has been so long and circuitous that it’s not out of the realm of possibility that it ends up leading us back to a familiar place.

Should the NDP government stick to its announced timeline, a business case for a new crossing will be completed by the fall of next year. That process is intended to produce a preferred option, although public consultation and necessary approvals would need to follow that announcement before any shovels hit the ground.

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Safe to say, if the business case isn’t finished until late 2020, what happens after that will take us well into 2021, if not beyond. It also takes us to the next provincial election, which is scheduled for the spring of 2021.

It’s way too early to pick a winner in that contest, but it’s not inconceivable that Andrew Wilkinson and the Liberals form government given they were only a single seat short of doing so two years ago. If that’s the case, it would create a billion-dollar (or more) question in these parts.

At that point ground wouldn’t have been broken on the NDP’s preferred crossing, so does a new Liberal government continue with what the New Democrats have started or does it revert to the 10-lane bridge project that was just getting underway when the last election scuttled it?

Despite opposition from many Greater Vancouver mayors, the mega-bridge was a cornerstone of the last Liberal campaign so it would be hard to see the party move forward with a NDP initiative at the expense of its favoured crossing. The bridge has received all the necessary approvals so presumably construction could start as soon as bids were received.

The fact we could potentially get to that kind of crossroads is due entirely to the fact New Democrats have been dragging their feet on this file. After quashing the bridge, they took their sweet time finding a consultant and then sat on his findings. Now they’re going to take two years to come up with a business case even though Lower Mainland mayors, who the NDP said must be on side, have already agreed on an eight-lane tunnel.

The irony here is as they continue to study a situation that’s been studied ad nauseam, their preferred crossing might never get beyond the drawing board.

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