An $8 billion Rebuild B.C. infrastructure program announced by the BC Liberals Oct. 5, would include new interchanges and overpasses connecting Highway 99 with 24 Avenue and 32 Avenue in South Surrey, according to a release sent out Friday (Oct. 16) by the BC Liberal Party.
In the release, BC Liberal candidates Stephanie Cadieux (incumbent, Surrey South) and Trevor Halford (Surrey-White Rock) said such infrastructure investments would be top priorities should the party form the next government.
But the announcement was met by skepticism from Bryn Smith, NDP candidate in the Surrey-White Rock riding, who told Peace Arch News he takes the idea with a “heavy grain of salt.”
“When it comes to the BC Liberals, we’ve heard these commitments before,” he said. “They had 16 years to get these things built – and they didn’t.”
He also questioned where, for instance, a new interchange would be placed on 24 Avenue.
“I don’t know where they would put it without putting even more strain on traffic on 24 Avenue,” he said, adding that the NDP is looking at more rapid transit options rather than basing transportation solutions on a reliance on individual vehicles.
“Now is not the time to invest in car-based infrastructure,” he said. “This doesn’t look forward, it looks backward.”
Pixie Hobby, BC Green candidate for Surrey-White Rock, said the road projects were also not top priority for her party.
Rather than being focused on a “four-year election cycle” or infrastructure projects that “might attract attention” in the short term, she said, the Greens plan a $1-billion targeted innovation investment fund aiming at long-term climate benefits through such goals as zero carbon emissions.
Bio-fuel and clean energy strategies – such as electrifying transit systems and providing a broad network of electric vehicle charging stations – would also be high priority she said, although she didn’t rule out road infrastructure projects altogether.
Halford maintained, however, that promises made in his party’s announcement – particularly the interchanges and overpasses at 32 and 24 Avenues – represent a necessary infusion of cash to jump-start long-awaited projects that are already in the works.
“My understanding is the City of Surrey has been looking at these projects for a long time – a lot of the work in planning has been done,” he said.
“The process has been started for a while, but there hasn’t been any funding at the provincial level – we need to get moving here.”
Halford said traffic congestion on 32 Avenue and 24 Avenue has become overwhelming in recent years.
“I hear that from the community all the time,” he said. “The City of Surrey is growing at an enormous rate – we need to get caught up on transportation and infrastructure.”
Under a Liberal government, the release states, South Surrey and White Rock residents would also benefit from a new hospital scheduled to be built in Cloverdale and a 10-lane bridge replacing the Massey Tunnel.
Prior to the Liberals’ loss in the 2017 provincial election, work on a bridge to replace the aging tunnel had already begun. It was cancelled by the incoming NDP government, which has not yet approved a new design or decided between a bridge and a tunnel.
“We were doing it,” Halford commented.
“We were spending close to $100 million on replacing the Massey tunnel, which to my mind is the biggest bottleneck in Western Canada. As soon as (the NDP) were elected, they immediately put a stop to it. But we made that commitment, and we’ll get it done.”
Work on the 10-lane bridge would pick up from where it was halted – with six kilometres of sand preload in place for the approaches and $95 million spent on assessment, design and consultation – Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson said during the Oct. 5 announcement.
He gave no estimate of how much the cost has risen since, and would only say it would be open to traffic “as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile the Liberals also affirmed their commitment to building a second hospital for Surrey next to the Kwantlen Polytechnic University campus in Cloverdale – backed by some $300 million from the party’s new infrastructure plan, Halford said.
The site was announced by the NDP and plans for a new hospital were laid out in December 2019.
On Sept. 23, shortly after calling a snap election for Oct. 24, NDP leader John Horgan held a press conference in Surrey to criticize the Liberals’ decision to sell a block of land in the Panorama neighbourhood that had been proposed as a site for a new hospital. The land had been sold for $3 million below its assessed value, Horgan said.
On Oct. 8, Wilkinson came to Surrey an announced that, if elected, the Liberals will make construction of a new hospital in Cloverdale, “one of our highest priorities.”
“When it comes to investing in infrastructure we know that Surrey and White Rock need major transportation investments as well as real funding for a new hospital,” Cadieux commented.
“BC Liberals have a track record of building for the future and these important investments in Surrey and White Rock will be priorities for a BC Liberal government.
“After three years in office, John Horgan and the NDP have given B.C. plenty of studies and a list of broken promises but next to nothing when it comes to building any new infrastructure. The BC Liberals’ Rebuild B.C. plan will change that, accelerating infrastructure investments to meet the needs of the province’s growing population, create jobs, and improve long-term productivity.”
– files from Black Press Media