Could 2019 go down as the year that mayors who rarely use the George Massey Tunnel decide what its replacement will look like? Or maybe that fateful decision won’t come until 2020 in a nod to those who will one day be able to look back on the contentious project with the benefit of a hindsight.
Whatever the timeline, it’s more than a little disconcerting that a group of regional politicians that hasn’t shown a whole lot of love for the idea of a new Fraser River crossing is going to play a pivotal role in determining the scope it will eventually take. To be fair, the Mayors’ Council took on a new look following last fall’s civic elections, but it’s hard to believe the territorial approach where members look out for their own interests is going to change significantly going forward.
It stands to reason the bigger the crossing, the more money it would cost, which theoretically means there would be less to spend elsewhere in the region. We’ve already been told by a NDP-hired consultant that the 10-lane bridge project initiated by the former Liberal government is too big and that we should consider six- or eight-lane options, either a bridge or another tunnel.
Even though the price might be attractive, it would be absolutely ludicrous to spend tax dollars on a six-lane crossing given we require a minimum of four lanes going with the rush today, let alone in the decades to come. Unless some form of rapid transit suddenly becomes more than a pipe dream for the Highway 99 corridor, six lanes simply isn’t going to cut it so it shouldn’t even be on the table.
If 10 is too many and six is, hopefully, considered insufficient, it stands to reason that a difference-splitting eight-lane span is where this is going to end up, so rather than taking almost two years to compile a business case, let’s get things going much sooner.
Delta Mayor George Harvie has already questioned the provincial government’s timeline and is worried that a new crossing, particularly if a federal environmental review is required, could be as far away as 2030. That’s obviously not acceptable and it’s laughable given this process started back in 2013.
It’s one thing for the NDP to put its stamp on this project, but foot dragging isn’t necessary.