An architectural model of the Massey Bridge. (James Smith photo)

Massey Tunnel replacement debate spinning its wheels

Emotions are high but arguments on all sides have been reduced to overly-simple soundbites

I have now restarted this column so many times that I’m starting to wonder what I was hoping to accomplish by writing it.

Initially, I wanted to look at how the rationales both for and against the 10-lane bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel have been repeated and simplified to the point that most — if not all — nuance has been lost. Headlines and one-line sound bites have become the full story as far as many people are concerned, facts be damned.

The original point of this column was to say that everyone needs to step back, take a deep breath, cool it on the rhetoric and re-acquaint themselves with the details of both the project and the arguments for and against it. You know, try to gain some perspective on things.

At least, that was the plan.

Before sitting down to write this column, and in preparation for a yet-to-be-written article re-examining the arguments for and against the project, I sat down with Greg Moore, Metro Vancouver board chair and mayor of Port Coquitlam.

Moore stressed that the mayors weren’t opposed to the Massey Tunnel replacement project as a whole, but rather the size of it. In a nutshell, 10 lanes is too big and not in line with TransLink’s 10-year transportation plan.

He said the mayors want the province to work with Metro Vancouver and TransLink to come up with a solution that takes into account the regional impact of the project.

Sounds good, I thought, get everyone on the same page and work towards a common goal. I should write a column about that.

The next day, Thursday, July 27, Delta sent out a press release saying the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation had defeated a motion from Mayor Lois Jackson to allow Delta’s Chief Administrative Officer George Harvie to speak about the Massey Tunnel replacement project “and the opportunity for the Highway 99 corridor to benefit from $500 million in transit improvements,” on the grounds that it is a provincial initiative and outside their mandate.

“I don’t think we should spend time at TransLink dealing with issues that are outside of our jurisdiction,” Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan is quoted as saying in the press release.

I wasn’t there, but a colleague who was said that’s more or less how it went down. So what are we to make of it?

If the mayors want the province to consider the impacts of the proposed bridge on transportation in the region, shouldn’t the regional transportation authority have a least a cursory conversation about the province’s investment in a major piece of transportation infrastructure?

If Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claire Trevena does sit down with the mayors, shouldn’t they have some kind of preferred course of action ratified and ready to show her? That’s hard to do if the mayors refuse to even discuss the project.

Mayor Jackson has repeatedly said the bridge has become a political issue and that the “boys club” at Metro Vancouver and the TransLink Mayor’s Council has shut down any meaningful debate about the project in favour of focusing on pet projects like the Broadway SkyTrain extension and Surrey LRT.

Jackson’s comments may be coloured by her frustration at having to lobby alone for a project she believes is right for the region and until election night thought was a sure thing, but if the Mayors’ Council really wanted to disprove her allegations and prove they were ready to collaborate with the province, they just blew a heck of an opportunity to do so.

So, that said, what’s the point of this column? Same as it ever was, I guess: don’t believe the hype (even from me). Go back to the source and make your own informed decision about what’s best for Delta, for Metro Vancouver and for B.C.

That way if the Mayor’s Council or the ministry of transportation and infrastructure, or even your friends and neighbours, come asking for your opinion, you can offer it confident that you actually know what you’re talking about, and that no one else is talking through you.

James Smith is the editor of the North Delta Reporter.