I live in Delta and I’m very familiar with the tunnel traffic volumes during the morning and evening rush hours.
The same problem existed when I was the premier and, in 1989, I requested the Ministry of Transportation and Highways to get an approximate cost for dropping another tube with three lanes, a sidewalk and white ceramic tiles on the walls.
It took a while, but not long before I left office, an estimate came back.
It was so low that I questioned its accuracy. I was told that it did not include a proposed “cloverleaf exit” and that this would be an added cost.
I asked why and was then told that this would require a piece of the Fantasy Gardens land and they thought I could have a problem with that.
My response, “No problem, you simply expropriate.”
The small research project that was done was left with the NDP; they did nothing and similarly so the successive Liberal governments.
For me, that doesn’t necessarily mean the NDP or Liberals didn’t care, but it does confirm my suspicion that the bureaucrats and big corporate influences like the big and expensive projects.
I also believe that the B.C. Liberals want every Lower Mainland crossing tolled and, understandably, it would be politically difficult, if not impossible, to toll an improved existing tunnel that was long paid for.
The government now proposes to build a $3.5-billion-plus toll bridge; 50 times more costly than dropping another tunnel tube, specifically for rush hour traffic.
The bureaucracy and big business will love it, but the everyday commuting-to-work person will pay through the nose and now have no option but to pay.
So, what happens after I and thousands of others cross the five lanes going to Richmond and Vancouver, having been photographed for the toll on the new bridge, and we all arrive at the same time by the two very narrow lanes on the Oak Street bridge?
An even bigger disaster, with thousands of cars burning costly, heavily taxed fuel — including a carbon tax — and spewing pollution.
The Social Credit government, historically, would have no part of tolls.
It was seen as another tax on the working person, the people that travel the bridge more than the business person and who, unlike the business person, cannot use it as a tax write-off.
Hoping for a better world.
Bill Vander Zalm
Former B.C. premier