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No bridge at the end of the tunnel

Jordan Bateman: By now, the Massey Tunnel replacement project would have been half completed. Instead, there’s no end in sight to gridlock across – and under – the Fraser River.

The 60-year-old Massey Tunnel sits on the bottom of the muddy Fraser River. The effort to replace the outdated artery – thanks to Premier John Horgan – is similarly stuck in the mud and underwater.

It didn’t have to be this way.

A new bridge had been approved by the BC Liberal government in 2016, and pre-construction was already under way. Indeed, the new 10-lane bridge had come in at $900 million under the expected budget, thanks to some smart design – by putting the pilings on land, and not in the river itself, the builders could avoid costly delays and glacially-slow environmental reviews.

Along Highway 99, thousands and thousands of tonnes of sand were placed, creating a base for the road expansion.

And then, Andrew Weaver decided to make John Horgan the 36th premier of British Columbia. For no good reason other than the fact that it was Christy Clark who approved the bridge, Horgan killed it almost immediately.

It’s a shame – the new bridge would have been more than half-built today. Relief for tens of thousands of stranded drivers would have been in sight.

Instead, John Horgan is making those drivers wait. And wait and wait and wait.

Horgan has no clear plan for the Massey crossing. Some days, he muses about “twinning” the tunnel – an expensive error given the deterioration happening in the old tunnel. Some NDP supporters have talked about a new tunnel, but again that would be slowed by months (years?) of environmental review related to the sensitive Fraser River. A new bridge would simply highlight the foolishness of cancelling the old one.

"It’s a shame – the new bridge would have been more than half-built today."

Horgan claims he wants the regional mayors on board for whatever solution comes for the Massey. But why should mayors get a veto on this bridge when other mayors are facing drastic provincial funding cuts due to the rural dividend clawback? Why do one set of mayors get kind treatment, and the other is compared to whiny, ungrateful children? It’s cynical to say, but Horgan knows these suburban mayors will never agree on a Massey solution, and he can keep punting the replacement down the road.

The biggest thing stopping a new Massey from being built is simple: money. The Horgan government has cut a sweetheart deal with its donor building trades unions, giving the unions an expensive monopoly on three major transportation projects.

This monopoly will drive the costs of a new Pattullo, the Broadway subway, and Highway 1 expansion up by as much as one-third. That’s hundreds of millions of dollars less to spend on other infrastructure like a new Massey. And with provincial finances tightening, Horgan is in enough trouble to meet the promises he has already made – let alone new ones.

Enjoy your wait at the tunnel bottleneck, drivers: John Horgan wants you there for a long, long time.

Jordan Bateman has a long history of public policy work, championing small business and fiscal responsibility. Currently the Vice President, Communications & Marketing for the Independent Contractors and Business Association (ICBA), Jordan also served six years as the B.C. Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and was a two-term Langley Township Councillor.