Editorial: Massey Tunnel replacement can't come soon enough

With the completion of the new Port Mann Bridge this past weekend, the B.C. Liberal government should be looking for the next big infrastructure project to hang their hat on.

And they need look no further than the replacement for the aging and obsolete George Massey Tunnel.

The shortcomings of the tunnel are well-known to Deltans. It is more than a mere traffic bottleneck, it is an economic choke point.

Delta is increasingly becoming an industrial hub for the Lower Mainland thanks to its geographic location, however areas such as Tilbury and Sunbury have been stunted by the constant gridlock on either end of the tunnel.

A cable-stayed bridge similar to the new Port Mann Bridge would be an obvious choice to replace the tunnel, as the decommissioning of the George Massey Tunnel would allow for larger ships to use the South Arm of the Fraser River.

The increased industrial development that will come with a new bridge will provide local jobs and lighten the tax burden on residential rate payers.

Tolling will be inevitable, and necessary, just as it was on the tunnel when it was completed in 1959. But a dollar or two per trip is a small price to pay compared to the money and time wasted while stuck idling in traffic during rush hour.

The past decade has proved the provincial budget can handle large-scale infrastructure projects. The Port Mann Bridge, Golden Ears Bridge, and Pitt River Bridge are just a few of the major transportation projects the Liberal government has found money for.

Given the narrow margin in the pervious provincial election that saw independent MLA Vicki Huntington take Delta South by just 32 votes, it is in the Liberals' best interest to focus on this riding and make a strong commitment to completing this project as soon as possible.

Currently, the project is only in its infancy, with public consultations taking place across the Fraser River delta this month.

The provincial government has been down this road before, as long-time Delta residents no doubt recall. In 1991, 1995, and 2003, the province tabled reports recommending the tunnel's capacity be expanded.

But to date, those plans have not been put into action.

There's no question a new crossing will be a wise investment of tax dollars, given the importance in expediting trade and easing commuter congestion.

However, if the B.C. Liberals want to convince Deltans they are serious about replacing the George Massey Tunnel, they need to get shovels in the ground before the May election.

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