By Jack Davidson
To create jobs, improve the environment and grow the economy
By Jack Davidson
September 22, 2016 – British Columbia is at a crossroads, so to speak. There are many important infrastructure projects that are needed to improve and expand the province’s transportation network. Roads, highways, bridges, railways, ports and airports are all essential for moving people and goods. An efficient transportation network is the key foundation of a strong economy and it allows our businesses to be more competitive, creates jobs and stimulates economic growth.
Whether it be pipeline construction, reasonable resource development or infrastructure projects, special interest groups (the ‘naysayers’) have been successful in getting the media to focus on their negative messages instead of the many positive aspects of a particular project.
The George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project is an excellent example of one these projects where we keep hearing about groups questioning the large cost and potential environmental factors, but nothing about the many positive elements of this much needed infrastructure crossing.
The population only continues to increase with more people moving out to the Fraser Valley and surrounding areas, so unsurprisingly, the 1950s-built George Massey Tunnel has become the worst traffic bottleneck in B.C. The replacement project will save up to 30 minutes a day for rush hour commuters, reduce idling by one million hours and remove 9,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHGs) each year. Collisions should be reduced by an estimated 35 per cent and the replacement bridge will dramatically improve safety in the event of an earthquake.
While opponents may complain that there has not been enough consultation, three full rounds of public engagement over three years were held with more than 3,000 participants. Over 3,600 pages of project information were publically released on the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s (MOTI) website.
There have also been more than 20 meetings each with Metro Vancouver and TransLink over the past three years to discuss various project aspects including traffic, land use, transit and air quality. The MOTI has had more than 70 meetings each with Richmond and Delta over the past three years. Both municipalities have provided valuable comments that have shaped the project’s scope.
And in August, the MOTI submitted its application to the Provincial Environmental Assessment Office for an environmental certificate, which includes an application review period of up to 180 days. This review period includes a 60-day public comment period on the application, with three public open houses, which will examine all potential effects – environmental, economic, social, heritage and health.
The naysayers are saying the project will not benefit the environment. Current congestion at the tunnel creates an estimated one million hours of idling a year. Keeping traffic moving will undoubtedly reduce GHG emissions. A free-flowing bridge will include more transit and cycling options and provide better connections to existing transit services, which will take cars off the road.
Unfortunately, our industry is losing ground and the naysayers have been quite effective in stalling some construction projects across B.C. because we have not been proactive in sharing the benefits of these projects. What many people don’t understand is that the price of many of these inevitable construction projects will skyrocket with time.
We need to coordinate a vocal community of supporters who believe that responsible development helps cities and regions grow and provide government with the resources they need to provide us with the important services we depend on, such as healthcare, education and social services.
Leadership is needed to act on behalf of the quiet majority and support from provincial leaders is essential to move ahead on responsible resource and infrastructure projects that will help grow our economy and benefit all British Columbians. Please work with and advise us on how we can help to change direction, become vocal and rally against the naysayers.
Jack Davidson is the president of the BC Road Builders & Heavy Construction Association.