Replacing the Massey Tunnel with a new bridge is the province's favoured project to receive federal infrastructure grants

Province defends Massey Bridge as top pick for federal grants

Mayors concerned replacement of Massey Tunnel will compete against rapid transit projects for infrastructure aid

Transportation Minister Todd Stone is defending the province’s decision to make the replacement of the Massey Tunnel B.C.’s top priority to receive new federal infrastructure grants.

The choice of the new bridge over the Fraser River – expected to cost around $3 billion – isn’t sitting well with some Metro Vancouver mayors, who worry it may effectively compete for federal cash against their rapid transit projects, as well as Metro Vancouver’s top priority of a new sewage treatment plant on the North Shore.

“It is certainly concerning that that bridge project, still somewhat undefined, would be given top billing,” Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said.

Unlike transit upgrades, Brodie said, there is not broad support behind the bridge, particularly in Richmond, where there are fears it will merely shift the existing bottleneck further up Highway 99.

“We’re concerned about the cost and the business plan for it, the impacts on farmland, how effectively it deals with congestion going northbound and southbound, and how it fits with our overall transportation system and the regional growth plan.”

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner said making the bridge top priority causes her “some consternation” because the mayors’ plan for transit expansion should take precedence.

Stone told Black Press the choice is “in no way intended to suggest the transit projects in Surrey and on Broadway are not critically important.”

He said new federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi was already well briefed on both the rapid transit projects, adding he walked him through the case for the George Massey project in detail in a meeting last week.

Ottawa has pledged $60 billion in net new infrastructure grants over 10 years.

Eligible projects are expected to have a strong sustainability element to them and while that might suggest transit upgrades have the inside track, Stone told federal officials the new bridge should also qualify to unclog B.C.’s worst traffic bottleneck.

“There is a very significant sustainability and environmental component to the bridge,” Stone said. “That registered with them.”

He said the project will eliminate a million hours per year of idling vehicles, add HOV lanes and dedicated transit access, as well as pedestrian and cycling options that don’t exist now at the Deas Island crossing.

The new bridge will also ease congestion for the 10,000 people a day who take transit through the tunnel, Stone added.

“It’s for all those reasons it represents the priority.”

He said federal officials are still determining the specific eligibility rules for the new program and he is urging them to also include new ferries, which were not previously eligible for federal infrastructure grants.

BC Ferries has planned $2.5 billion in projects over 12 years, including three new LNG-powered ferries as well as terminal upgrades.

The premier last week indicated she hopes more generous federal cost-sharing for infrastructure could help Metro transit projects proceed without the need to hold another transit tax referendum.

Hepner said she’s “optimistic” both senior governments are prepared to take a new approach.

The province has yet to release a detailed business plan with costing for the Massey bridge – including whether ot not it will be tolled – but Stone promised again that will come this month.

Asked if the province wants a big federal contribution for the bridge to avoid tolling the Highway 99 crossing, Stone said federal support would help offset the cost, regardless of how it is funded.

Canadian Taxpayers Federation spokesman Jordan Bateman said the province has likely demanded the same deal for B.C. drivers as those in suburban Montreal, where the plan was to toll the new Champlain Bridge being built over the Saint Lawrence River until the Liberals made a campaign promise to keep the crossing free.

Bateman noted the federal infrastructure grants are to be back-end loaded in Liberals’ second term – if they’re re-elected – with much less money available over the first four years than B.C. politicians might think.

He said both the Massey and Pattullo bridges should be irrelevant to the infrastructure grant chase if they’re to be built by tolls.

Just Posted

VIDEO: Crash closes Fraser Highway in Langley

One vehicle ends up in ditch, air ambulance called in

Optimist Club has its sights set on Cloverdale

The international club has been helping youth in the community nearly 100 years.

Surrey RCMP are looking for 47-year-old Audra Jager

Reports say she is easily confused and disoriented because of previous head injury.

Team B.C. wins the 2017 WHL Cup

The team features Surrey natives and Valley West Hawks forwards Justin Sourdif and Cameron MacDonald

Oct. 21st-27th is Newcomer Employment Week in Surrey

The City of Surrey is offering a number of services to help new residents find jobs

VIDEO: Sears liquidation sales continue across B.C.

Sales are expected to continue into the New Year

WATCH: 10,000 signatures gained to stop ‘no pets’ rental policy

Pets OK BC said about 1,700 animals were surrendered to the BC SPCA last year due to housing issues

Silver Creek reacts after remains found, man arrested

Neighbours of property where remains were found say man arrested was sweet and polite

VIDEO: Oprah Winfrey and a celebrities attend ‘B.C. Miracle Concert’

Fundraiser featured Foster, Steven Tyler, The Tenors, Matteo Bocelli, Laura Bretan, Carly Rae Jepsen

Human remains found at Silver Creek property

RCMP have been searching the property in the 2200 block of Salmon River Road for the past three days

New B.C. acute care centre opens for young patients, expectant mothers

Facility aims to make B.C. Children’s Hospital visits more comfortable

Search ramps up for B.C. woman after dog, car found near Ashcroft

Jenny Lynn Larocque’s vehicle and dog were found in Venables Valley, but there is no sign of her

Holy Heritage Rail Batman: Superheros come to Cloverdale historic train

The Fraser Valley Heritage Rail is hosting its third annual Halloween rail adventure Oct 28, 29

Surrey Eagles prep for road tilt with first-place Vernon Vipers

After a Friday night game against Wenatchee, the Birds take aim at BCHL leaders Saturday

Most Read