The morning of January 13, 2022, should have been a day of good news for commuters in B.C., because it was the day that the new 10-lane George Massey bridge would have opened, helping to ease the ever-growing traffic congestion on the Lower Mainland for local commuters and those travelling to and from the Vancouver area.
The only problem is that the NDP government nixed the former BC Liberal government’s bridge plan, which was already in progress, when they came to power more than four years ago. So what did British Columbians get as a replacement for this vital but aging piece of infrastructure? Just a whole lot of waiting, as it will be at least a decade before we see the replacement tunnel promised by the NDP.
Over the past four years, this government has built a less-than-stellar track record when it comes to approving and building key infrastructure projects in our province. Through the government’s ironically-named Community Benefit Agreements, which are locking out 85% of construction workers from projects as well as driving up costs, projects are being reduced in scope and increased in cost. It is estimated that CBAs could add as much as $4.5 billion to the cost of B.C.’s infrastructure projects in the coming years.
All of these factors don’t bode well for local infrastructure projects in the Peace River region like the Taylor Bridge replacement, and this is before we take into account the horrific environmental disasters that swept through communities in our province, which destroyed roads, highways, homes, businesses, and livelihoods. RBC estimates the costs of flood damage to our province could exceed $7.5 billion and will significantly reduce the future economic outlook of B.C.
As rebuilding our damaged roads, highways, and communities becomes a priority, it is still unclear what this could mean for prospective local infrastructure projects, but time is of the essence. Government must come out with a plan for how they intend to utilize our finances and resources to ensure communities like Taylor, Fort St. John or Fort Nelson will still see the investment we need.
We must maintain the Taylor Bridge crossing, not only for commuters in the Peace River region but as a vital corridor for trade and commerce in Northern B.C. and Alberta and beyond. We need commitment on rural roads in Baldonnel and Cecil Lake. We need a plan for the Montney Coulee and Pederson's Crossing to mention just a few.
As your MLA, I will continue to press the importance of these projects with the Minister of Transportation and this NDP government, holding them accountable and ensuring that the Peace River region remains a top priority in this government’s future infrastructure plans.
Dan Davies is the MLA for Peace River North.