B.C.’s NDP government is facing new criticism over its plans to replace the aging George Massey Tunnel, after cancelling a planned bridge approved by the previous BC Liberal government.
The Ministry of Transportation released its business case for a new eight-lane immersed tube tunnel this week, but much of the document — including key segments summarizing a risk analysis and value for money calculations — have been redacted.
“We always said the bridge was a perfect answer and the bridge would be opening literally a year from now if we’d kept the bridge project going,” South Delta BC Liberal MLA said, describing the tunnel as a “boondoggle.”
“The public in British Columbia need to know where we are going with this, we need to know what the figures are and what taxpayers are going to be paying for this.”
Transportation Minister Rob Fleming defended the redacted business case Thursday, noting the BC Liberals never released the business case for their own project and arguing that segments needed to be blacked out for legal reasons.
“That’s standard for any project that has commercially sensitive info before go out to the tearing process,” he said. “What we do at the end of the project is we release all of the numbers that have been redacted.”
The NDP released their plans for the new eight-lane tunnel in August, nearly four years after it scrapped the initially planned bridge.
The crossing is projected to cost $4.15 billion and be in operation by 2030.
The NDP says the crossing will be $70 million cheaper than the 10-lane bridge the BC Liberals had planned, but that doesn’t count the $100 million already spent on pre-construction costs for the now defunct project.
It also doesn’t include the cost of a new environmental assessment for the tunnel.
Paton argued the bridge, which would have had all of its pedestals on land, would have had a lighter environmental footprint.
“A tunnel in the Fraser River, maybe people did that in 1959 when nobody cared about the future of salmon or sturgeon, but you certainly don’t do that for enviro reasons in 2021 or 2030 when they’re talking about completing this tunnel,” he said.
But while the bridge project was popular in Delta, it was opposed by neighbouring Richmond, which feared added congestion, and rejected by the Metro Vancouver Board which wanted fewer lanes and more transit priority.
“The reality is that it did not have regional support,” Fleming said Thursday.
“It was also going to be paid for by dinging motorists for tolls each and every day.”
The business case projects that work on an interchange at the Steveston Highway could begin as early as next year, but that shovels wouldn’t hit the ground for the actual new crossing until 2026.