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Protesters crash groundbreaking of Massey Tunnel replacement project

Last Updated Apr 5, 2017 at 10:29 am PDT

Protesters at the site of a news conference in Delta about the Massey Tunnel replacement project. (Martin MacMahon, NEWS 1130 Photo)

Government news conference moved due to loud protesters

Transportation minister welcomes difference in opinion over transit project, but says it will go ahead

DELTA (NEWS 1130) – A group of protesters forced a provincial government news conference to change locations at the last minute.

People, some holding cardboard masks of BC’s transportation minister, were heard shouting, clapping and chanting ahead of the event. “We live here. How many of you live in Ladner and Tsawwassen and Delta? Shame! Shame! Shame!” exclaimed one woman.

Some protesters even held a mock news conference at the podium before politicians entered the scene to make their announcement on the $3.5 billion Massey Bridge project.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone and Delta Mayor Lois Jackson are on hand for the shovels to hit the dirt. “The beauty of embracing free speech is everyone is entitled to their opinion. We absolutely respect the views [and] the opinions of folks who have arrived here today who do not support this project and we respect their rights to make those views known,” says Stone.

The 10-lane bridge and Highway 99 improvements are expected to be completed by 2022.

Stone also took the opportunity to remind voters next month’s election will present a choice for people who want transit improvements and for those who don’t. “We’re going to stand with the men and women who make a living building infrastructure in this province. There’s a party that’s going to stand with British Columbians when it comes to continuing to invest in the infrastructure that we need to meet the demands of our growing economy. And that, by the way, includes transit. There are $500 million worth of components on this bridge that are transit-related.”

Jackson is the only Metro Vancouver mayor who backs the bridge plan — the others say it doesn’t fit with the region’s growth strategy.

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie is skipping the event, saying he has a meeting he can’t miss. He agrees congestions needs to be eased in the area, but feels the replacement project is a waste of money. “We can solve congestion by either getting cars off the road or by adding capacity. Capacity that will ultimately be filled.”

The provincial government claims the project will create about 9,000 direct jobs over the lifetime of the construction. Victoria also claims the new bridge and the other highway improvements, including dedicated transit lanes, will cut some commute times in half and also improve travel-time reliability for the 10,000 transit passengers and more than 80,000 cars that drive through the tunnel daily.