Opinion

EDITORIAL: New tunnel is just a band-aid

The George Massey Tunnel has made the worst road list in B.C. for two years in a row by the BCAA with congestion cited as the reason by 90 per cent of respondents.  - Black Press
The George Massey Tunnel has made the worst road list in B.C. for two years in a row by the BCAA with congestion cited as the reason by 90 per cent of respondents.
— image credit: Black Press

Last week’s short-on-specifics announcement by B.C. Premier Christy Clark about a 10-year plan to replace or upgrade the George Massey Tunnel took more than a few people by surprise.

Lost in the ensuing bridge/tunnel discussion was any talk about a long-term solution for the congestion that plagues Highway 99.

Yes, upgrading the tunnel to perhaps double in size would remove that choke point.

Unfortunately, it would also just relocate it to another spot on the highway, unless the entire highway system is upgraded.

The George Massey Tunnel was built in 1957, long before superhighways were a daily part of life for South Deltans, during an era when the community was still filled mainly with farmers.

Critics of Clark’s announcement say more thought needs to be put into rapid transit, that connects South Delta to the growing communities of Richmond and South Surrey.

Yes, blacktoping may win her votes, but Clark won’t be viewed as anything but self-serving unless she takes a closer look at the challenges of an aging roadway system facing continued population growth.

So what’s the solution?

Rather than vying for votes by making vague and questionable promises, Clark would be better served by acting as a true leader, and gathering Lower Mainland leaders for a closer and much more comprehensive examination of Highway 99’s troubles.

Yes, the tunnel is a significant problem that will cost millions of taxpayer dollars, but in an age where money is hard to come by, getting better bang for the buck is the key.

At the end of the day, putting more buses on the roadway, and cheaper infrastructure upgrades may serve as a band-aid for the short-term, while transportation planners work on a longer-term approach that takes into account residential and commercial growth.

Unfortunately, that approach won’t top the evening news, meaning the chances of it happening are somewhere between slim and none.

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