BC’s new NDP government cancelled bridge tolls on TransLink’s Golden Ears and the province’s Port Mann bridges, as promised in the recent election campaign. Member Stephen Rees wrote an article discussing the cancellation, the present and former governments’ wrong-headed approaches to road/bridge tolls and possible impacts on Metro Vancouver’s Mayors’ Council road-pricing studies. The article is at https://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2017/08/28/Risk-in-NDP-Plan-to-End-Bridge-Tolls/?utm_source=weekly&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=280817.
No word on when/if transit riders’ tolls (a.k.a. fares) will also be eliminated as part of the NDP government’s “Toll Free BC” sloganeering.
The new government also halted work on the Massey Bridge project that would have replaced the 4-lane Massey Tunnel with a 10-lane bridge. An independent technical review will be initiated to determine options for moving forward. Predictably, Delta’s mayor, Lois Jackson, and Liberal MLAs decried the move stating that the issue has been studied in depth and a rehash is not necessary. Somewhat hyperbolically, Liberal MLAs also claimed the NDP’s decision puts commuters lives at risk. Other Metro Vancouver Mayors expressed relief at the decision, hoping to work closely with the provincial government on the issue. More details at http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/massey-tunnel-update-sept-6-1.4277357 and http://vancouversun.com/news/politics/ndp-cancels-construction-on-george-massey-bridge-project .
Greyhound has applied to the BC Passenger Transportation Board to eliminate 5 routes in the province (http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/greyhound-bus-route-on-b-c-s-highway-of-tears-one-of-five-that-could-be-axed). The routes are Victoria-Nanaimo, Prince George-Valemount, Prince George-Dawson Creek, Dawson Creek-Whitehorse, and Prince George-Prince Rupert. Plunging ridership and competition from subsidised BC Transit services are claimed as causes for Greyhound’s request. The BC Transit claim is a bit of a red herring as most of the routes eliminated have no to minimal intercity subsidised transit service.
The Prince-George-Prince Rupert route is the infamous Highway of Tears where improved public transit has been an issue for many years. BC Transit recently implemented limited Burns Lake-Smithers-Prince George and is working on further transit proposals in the corridor (https://bctransit.com/highway16/home), although there will be no end-to-end direct service.
The CBC spent a year investigating leaked documents from the Port Mann Bridge construction project, concluding that ‘weak oversight’ led to extra costs related to efforts to speed-up certain aspects of the construction to meet the province’s opening date. The investigation also notes that provincial rules regarding procurement and auditing were apparently not followed (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/weak-oversight-plagued-b-c-megaproject-which-insiders-believe-cost-taxpayers-millions-1.4144535). Political blogger Lailla Yuile discusses the CBC report and provides her own insight on the Port Mann Project at https://lailayuile.com/2017/09/07/everything-old-is-new-again-cbc-investigation-raises-big-questions-about-port-mann-bridge-build/.
Calls for an inquiry into the ‘cost overruns’ and the project’s management are being made. Some are suggesting that the former Liberal government’s practice of purchasing oversight, rather than using government staff, on large capital projects means that all such projects should be reviewed.