Anyone who has ever called Fort St. John and the Peace River region home has most likely crossed the landmark Taylor Bridge.
Since 1960, the 712-metre two-lane bridge has carried drivers across the Peace River, and with more than 7,500 vehicles travelling on Highway 97 between Dawson Creek and Fort St. John and beyond each day. The Taylor bridge is a crucial landmark that literally keeps our economy and people on the move.
As many of us know, the Taylor Bridge is fast due for a replacement. The provincial government has already opened up public consultation to discuss the future of the bridge in a series of open houses as well as an online survey that closes Nov. 5. The first open house took place on Oct. 13 and the second one is set to take place on Oct. 21. I encourage you all to take part by signing up at https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/transportation-projects/other-transportation-projects/taylor-bridge-crossing.
As residents of the Peace River region, we must do our part to convey what we want the future of our bridge to look like, because after discussions with some of my fellow opposition MLAs in the Lower Mainland, I have come to realize that John Horgan’s government can make infrastructure projects a serious headache for those who depend on them.
Last week, John Horgan’s NDP government finally released their much-delayed business case to justify replacing the Lower Mainland’s aging George Massey Tunnel with a new eight-lane tunnel instead of a bridge, as was originally planned under the previous BC Liberal government. The report has revealed that the decision may have been more grounded in political rivalry than good economic sense, as many of the cost breakdowns to justify the tunnel were redacted from the public while also ignoring the $100 million already invested in the replacement bridge when they axed the project back in 2017.
Finances aside, John Horgan and his Minister of Transportation are having trouble justifying their decision, especially to Lower Mainland commuters in a city that is projected to grow by a million people in the next 30 years. Like the Taylor Bridge, the George Massey tunnel is a crucial piece of infrastructure for commuters and commerce that is in dire need of a replacement. Had they stuck with the original plan, commuters would be travelling across a brand new 10-lane bridge next year. Now, construction for the tunnel isn’t due to begin until at least 2026 and likely won’t be complete for at least a decade.
Although the same situation is unlikely to befall the Taylor Bridge, the NDP have proven time and again that they aren’t afraid to play politics with infrastructure projects. The best way for the people of the Peace River region to ensure we get a bridge that fits our commuting needs is if we get involved now to show this government that they need to prioritize the needs of the community over the needs of their political strategists.
All we need to do is look around our region to see that very few projects have been approved over the last few years, and the future isn’t looking so good either. From the Taylor Bridge and critical improvements of our rural roads to the maintenance of the Alaska Highway – we have been put on the side burner.
Dan Davies is the MLA for Peace River North.