The BC Liberals have announced a sweeping new $8 billion infrastructure plan as an additional key election platform promise that provides an economic stimulus.
This new funding will revive the previous plan to build a new 10-lane bridge to replace the George Massey Tunnel, as well as 24 km of Highway 99 improvements starting from the south end of the Oak Street Bridge.
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Party leader Andrew Wilkinson said the replacement project will be built immediately by following the exact framework and design of the previous project.
It will be a new untolled crossing, with dedicated HOV and bus lanes along the highway starting from the Canada Line’s Bridgeport Station. But the previous three-level interchange design for Highway 99 and Steveston Higwhway will be revised to address the concerns of the City of Richmond.
While the previous project was budgeted at $3.5 billion, Wilkinson noted the previous provincial government was prepared to select a $2.6 billion bid from a contractor — about $900 million under budget.
However, Wilkinson warns the new bridge will cost more due to inflation. Construction was supposed to have started in late 2017 for an opening in 2022, with the project reaching its three-quarter construction milestone this year. This project was cancelled by the BC NDP shortly after they were elected in 2017.
He adds that by using the previously approved design, it would eliminate the need to undergo the years-long process of a new consultation and environmental review process for the BC NDP’s plan to build an eight-lane bridge or immersed tunnel without the same scope of Highway 99 corridor improvements. The path taken by the BC NDP to redesign the new replacement crossing will not be ready until the end of the decade at the very earliest.
The new infrastructure funding will also go towards TransLink’s public transit projects, reaching the south of Fraser, North Vancouver, and as far as the Fraser Valley.
But Wilkinson did not provide any specifics on transit projects, such as the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain project, which requires both the federal and provincial governments to approve the business case, transfer $1.6 billion in funding for the cancelled LRT project towards the Expo Line extension reaching Fleetwood, and a further $1.5 billion for the remaining SkyTrain route between Fleetwood and Langley Centre.
Further public transit funding will be allocated to other areas of the province, including Vancouver Island and the interior.
Existing highway infrastructure will see improvements, including the Trans-Canada Highway and upgraded highway rest areas throughout BC.
Other areas that will see the new infrastructure funding include upgraded and expanded hospitals, mental health facilities, senior homes, and elementary and secondary schools.
The breakdown in new infrastructure funding over three years is $4.5 billion for transportation, $1.3 billion for healthcare, $1 billion for elementary and secondary education, $200 million for post-secondary education, and $1 billion for housing and other commitments.
This will bring their total Rebuild BC plan to $30.9 billion over three years, including $11.9 billion for transportation.
The new funding will meet growing demands and create over 35,000 direct and indirect jobs, including 9,000 new jobs alone from the George Massey Tunnel replacement and Highway 99 corridor project.