McDonald blasts NDP over tunnel replacement
Delta South BC Liberal candidate Bruce McDonald says residents who struggle with delays crossing the George Massey Tunnel need a new route into Richmond, and the NDP aren’t offering one.
“Premier Christy Clark and today’s BC Liberals have a bold vision for the future – one that includes making vital investments in our province’s infrastructure,” said McDonald. “One of the reasons I chose to step forward is that her vision includes a plan to fix the biggest bottleneck my community faces every day – the Massey Tunnel.”
McDonald said the NDP’s plan is to simply paint the tunnel and add better lighting, referring to comments made in January on Sher-E-Punjab radio 1550 AM by Delta North NDP candidate Sylvia Bishop.
“I think there are things we can do in the meantime to improve the traffic flow,” she said in the interview. “Studies show that when the interiors of tunnels are bright, whether they’re painted and better lit, people continue to drive faster.”
People who live south of the Fraser understand this serious problem won’t be solved with a shiny coat of paint, said McDonald continued.
“They deserve better than that.”
However, Bishop said Wednesday the suggestions she made weren’t intended as a permanent solution to the tunnel’s traffic woes, and the NDP has not ruled out replacing it.
“We don’t have any simple solutions,” said Bishop. “[Finding a fix for the tunnel] requires a lot of consultation to determine what the best option is. But we are only at the beginning of that process.”
She noted that despite McDonald’s claims that a tunnel replacement is a priority for the Liberals, it wasn’t included in Premier Clark’s recent budget.
“It’s totally unfunded,” Bishop said. “If this project is so important to the Liberals, why isn’t it in their budget?”
Premier Clark announced in September the provincial government’s intention to replace the aging tunnel. The tunnel has 10 to 15 years left of serviceable life, after which the tunnel’s electrical and ventilation systems will need to be completely replaced.
The 629-metre-long tunnel was completed in 1959, and currently carries more than 80,000 vehicles each day, for 30 million trips annually. From 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., the tunnel operates at, or over, its designed capacity, with the annual cost of congestion at $66 million in 2008, according to Ministry figures, and could be as high as $100 million by 2041.
Consultation for the project is taking place in two phases: the first to collect input from the public and develop options for the tunnel replacement; while the second phase will identify and discuss exactly what the project will look like.