Massey Megaproject: A Troubled Bridge over Water

B.C. government’s lack of project consultation complicates an already tempestuous situation
Braden Klassen, Contributor

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A model of the concept bridge looking north over Deas Island. (B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure/Flickr)

The province of British Columbia is seeking qualified firms for the Massey replacement project, as announced on its website on June 28. The project will see the construction of a new bridge with lanes for transit, carpoolers, cyclists, and pedestrians, as well as improvements to Highway 99. It will be funded partially by user tolls and partnerships which have not yet been announced.

On June 29, the CBC reported that Metro Vancouver mayors—with the staunch exception of Delta Mayor Lois Jackson—had rejected the plan for the bridge. Local elected officials were angry that the provincial government decided to unveil their plan without consulting them, which sounds reasonable, considering that the construction is supposed to take five years and cost $3.5 billion dollars.

Some opponents of the project think that the 10 lane bridge is overkill and that a second tunnel would be a cheaper and more environmentally friendly option. Others think that the $3.5 billion dollars could be put to better use for schools or transit, and some are simply happy with the current tunnel.

The celebration dedicated to the beginning of construction on April 5 was interrupted by protesters. Richmond City Councilor Carol Day, who was one of the picketers, said that the bridge was “basically a monument to the car.” Even Doug Massey, the 83 year-old son of the eponymous George Massey himself, is opposed to the bridge.

Day raises a good point. A $3.5 billion dollar investment could have paid for the Evergreen SkyTrain extension twice, with about $700 million left for TransLink executives to salivate over. Instead of seizing this opportunity to join the clean energy movement and invest in a greener, more efficient transit-oriented solution, we’re going to build another bridge that will accommodate fossil-fuel driven transportation.

One of the B.C. Liberal’s chosen public-private partnerships will “design, build, partially finance, operate, maintain and rehabilitate the asset for a term of 30 years.” According to the government, “This procurement approach best provides value to taxpayers.”

You would think that such an adamant claim would be backed by some sort of evidence, like a transparent and comprehensive cost and benefit report. It’s not. In fact, if the bridge’s “value to taxpayers” is going to be anything like the other P3-run infrastructure projects, such as the Port Mann or Golden Ears bridges, it’ll be decades before any value to BC taxpayers becomes apparent.

Transportation Investment Corporation (TReO) operates and maintains the Port Mann, but the actual company responsible for tolling the bridge is called Trans Canada Flow. TC Flow is basically a small twig on the branch of a convoluted tree of French subsidiaries, the list of which reads like a genealogy account from the book of Genesis.

 

So, TI Corp affiliate TC Flow was begat by partner groups Sanef Tolling and Egis Group, Egis Group was begat by investment groups Caisse des Dépôts and Iosis Partners, who also consist of their many affiliates and shareholders etc.

 

To an extent, these companies have claim to some of the “value” that the BC Liberals have so beneficently promised British Columbians, and the same will be true for the P3 that works the Massey Bridge.

We have no say in this. Just like the Site C Dam project, and Pacific NorthWest LNG, it is clear that our provincial government prioritizes consulting with corporate interests rather than the actual communities affected by these gigantic and costly initiatives.

 

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