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Memory Lane: Bridge plan from Steveston to Ladner 'by no means dead' states 1935 newspaper

The ‘Patullo gang’ was blamed for the delays, and eventual cancellation, of a bridge from Richmond to Delta.
A Richmond newspaper declared in 1935 a bridge would be built to Ladner although the province had quashed the plans a year before.

“The bridge issue is by no means dead,” declared a local Richmond newspaper in June 1935.

After all, workers had been hacking at bushes just weeks before on Deas Island to clear the way for what was supposed to be the Ladner Bridge going from the village on the Delta side to Steveston.

Unfortunately, the provincial government had officially kiboshed the idea the year before, but the Marpole-Richmond Review declared on June 6, 1935, the project was still viable and claimed the bush-clearning work in late May had saved the “contract from cancellation.”

“Officials of the company still are reticent on the subject, but they divulge the information that the bridge issue is by no means dead, as might appear on the surface,” the newspaper stated.

“They are hopeful of raising the necessary funds shortly to make a start on the big undertaking, despite the heroic efforts of the Patullo gang to kill the project in favor of their own pet insanity, the New Westminster bridge.”

The idea of a bridge from Ladner to Steveston was brought to Delta Municipal Council already in 1910, but instead a ferry service was established in 1912, according to Mary Keen with the City of Richmond Archives, as recounted in Time and Tide: The settlement of Lulu Island’s South Arm Shore.

It wasn’t until 1931 that the Ladner Bridge was approved by the provincial government with a budget of $2.6 million but was then cancelled in 1934 with a change in government.

The year before, what is now called the Patullo Bridge had been approved by the provincial government, coincidentally in the riding of the then-premier T.D. Patullo, replacing the plan to build the Ladner Bridge.

The Patullo Bridge opened in 1937.

"Although there was latent interest in the idea of a Ladner bridge, World War II intervened," Keen noted.

Tunnel or bridge? Political parties still debating

In 1947, George Massey started promoting the idea of a tunnel from Ladner to Steveston, saying a bridge would be “wasteful from a land use point of view, and very expensive to build,” Keen explained in Time and Tide.

In fact, this was the same argument that Richmond city council gave when the former BC Liberal government, in the early 2010s, started planning a 10-lane bridge with a large cloverleaf at Steveston Highway to replace the aging George Massey Tunnel.  

Preliminary work began on the bridge under the then-BC Liberal party, now rebranded as BC United.

But when the BC Liberals were defeated in 2017, the bridge plan was scrapped and replaced with the current plan of an eight-lane immersed tube tunnel.

The BC United party often notes the 10-lane bridge would have been built by now. The new tunnel project is still under an environmental review and is expected to be built by 2030.

BC United has said, if elected in the fall provincial election, they will scrap the current tunnel plan and build the 10-lane bridge instead.

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