SENIORS SOAPBOX: Delta needs a new bridge and better transit

Columnist ML Burke chimes in on the debate surrounding the George Massey Tunnel replacement and transit issues in Delta.

I’m going to chime in on the Massey tunnel/bridge issue. It was a done deal until some of Metro Vancouver’s mayors decided otherwise. This time I’m siding with Mayor Jackson who recently suggested that her colleagues kindly butt out.

For starters building a new tunnel would be cheaper and less invasive on farmland, but it ain’t going to happen. So let’s move on to what we know is in the works – a new bridge.

I’ve had discussions with folks on both sides of the Fraser and many solutions have been voiced, some of which would actually reduce the daily commute right now. I am just the messenger in this compilation of good ideas. The biggest stumbling block is that it requires collaboration between the Ministry of Transportation and TransLink. The mayors can have their say but the final decision lies with these two stakeholders.

An immediate fix is simple. Toll ALL of the Fraser River and Burrard Inlet bridges $1 each way and just watch the traffic reduce through moving to the underused Port Mann and Golden Ears crossings. Now that TransLink is finally collecting its fares on SkyTrain, they should reduce the tolls on those two bridges immediately while they phase in TReO’s cameras on the older bridges. A six-month trial starting now is recommended.

Re-prioritize SkyTrain and/or Light Rail Transit’s (LRT) future commitments to where it will have the greatest impact at the soonest time. The Evergreen extension from Coquitlam to North Road is underway. There are plans to extend the Millennium Line underground along the West Broadway corridor. Surrey wants light rail between Guilford and Newton with a second extension to Langley. They are also considering a gondola up Burnaby Mountain.  So you might ask, where is Delta in all of these grand plans?

The new Massey bridge won’t be completed until 2022. They have ‘considered’ a SkyTrain crossing over the bridge some day in the future. It strikes me as a no-brainer that we should have SkyTrain or LRT coming across the new bridge WHEN it opens in 2022. The first leg would extend the Canada Line from Brighouse in Richmond to the Ferry Terminal, with stations at Ladner, Tsawwassen and the new Tsawwassen First Nation malls. A second leg could eventually go out to White Rock – AFTER the Vancouver and Surrey extensions.

The reasons Delta should trump those two cities’ expansions are:

• They already have SkyTrain and better transit services.

• Delta is where the greatest need and traffic bottlenecks are.

• Our population is growing dramatically and with such poor transit services, we are forced to use cars.

• The Ferry terminal is already beyond capacity for parking on summer weekends.

• The two new mega malls opening in October on the Tsawwassen First Nations lands, will generate unknown traffic increases.

A SkyTrain/LRT commitment by 2022, along with the new bridge opening, should be given priority now. With the revenues generated from all the bridges being moderately tolled, there may be enough to finance everyone’s extensions in a timely manner.

The unprecedented success of the Canada Line to the airport should prove that an extension to the ferry terminal would be even more successful.It also refutes the argument that the bridge will create new bottle-necks at the Oak and Knight Street bridges. This will not happen if we have SkyTrain servicing South Delta; Most folks will happily commute using the SkyTrain and avoid the expense and frustrations of driving into the city.

If you agree with these solutions please send this column to B.C.’s Ministry of Transport and to TransLink, with copies to BC Ferries, Delta’s MP and both MLA’s.

ML Burke retired from the health sector to work on issues such as affordable housing.  She sits on the Delta Seniors Planning Team and the BC Seniors Advocate’s Council of Advisors.