Richmond’s mayor called the new BC Liberal leader’s promise to bring back the 10-lane bridge plan to replace the George Massey Tunnel “disappointing.”
Newly chosen BC Liberal leader Kevin Falcon, who is now the leader of the opposition, has publicly stated he would stop the eight-lane tunnel replacement project currently underway and bring back the bridge plan if elected premier in the next election.
Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said the BC Liberals’ previous plan for the bridge was hatched “without any consultation with any city other than possibly Delta.”
“We now have a solution that has been agreed by Richmond, by Delta, by the First Nations and by almost every city in the region,” said Brodie.
“So I don’t know why he wants to resurrect something that was so unacceptable to the various cities that were involved.”
He described the Highway 99 corridor as a “quality of life” for the people of Richmond and those who commute on it, and a bridge would greatly affect everyone in and around the city.
“I don’t know why he wants to discard the opinion of the people who think about this, their communities and the region.”
The current eight-lane tunnel project is expected to cost $4.15 billion and is projected to open in 2030.
However, if the 10-lane toll bridge plan returns, a new environmental assessment would be required and it would take nine years to complete.
This means the process would start in 2024 and delay the crossing between Richmond and Delta until 2033 – three additional years compared with the current tunnel plan.
The BC Liberals, however, have pointed out that if the NDP hadn’t scrapped their 10-lane bridge plan when they were elected in 2017, a new crossing would be almost completed by now.
At the time, however, Richmond city council opposed the bridge because it would have encroached on farmland and green space in Richmond.
Brodie told the Richmond News if there are any further delays to the project, it would be the fault of a future BC Liberal government and “not the fault of the current government.”
“Had the BC Liberal government of the day under Christy Clark … properly consulted with the people, they would have known this situation, because it was controversial from the very minute and the very day it was announced,” said Brodie.
“They never went through the kind of consultation that the new NDP government went through.... It is completely their fault that they did not sit back and listen to the views of the people and the cities that are directly involved in this situation.”
Richmond’s NDP MLAs noted a bridge would also create more traffic for commuters during those three extra years.
“In addition to delaying a solution by years, Kevin Falcon is rejecting the consensus reached by community leaders that the tunnel is right for Richmond,” said Henry Yao, BC NDP MLA for Richmond South Centre.
“The tunnel is the right fit because it fixes the gridlock while avoiding the negative impacts that would be created by the BC Liberal bridge.”
Meanwhile, Aman Singh, NDP MLA for Richmond-Queensborough, said the toll bridge would turn Richmond into a parking lot as there is no plan to direct traffic.
“We’re managing traffic by building the Steveston Interchange. And unlike the BC Liberals, we’re addressing the bottleneck without unfair tolls.”