BY BOB ZIMMER
Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP
Those of us who travel across Taylor Bridge know how important it is to our local and regional economy. Since 1960, it has been vital in connecting the North Peace and South Peace for residents, businesses, and tourists travelling in the region.
Unfortunately, the bridge has fallen into grave disrepair and is in desperate need of fixing.
In May, officials with the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure announced that they were in the preliminary stages of examining three options for fixing or replacing Taylor Bridge. They included replacing the existing two-lane bridge with another two-lane bridge at an estimated cost of approximately $250 million, replacing it with a four-lane bridge which would cost at least an additional $100 million, or resurfacing the steel deck at approximately $80-$100 million.
I believe important infrastructure projects like these need to include feedback from those who will use it regularly. That is why, following this announcement, I sent out a questionnaire to residents in communities that would be directly affected by any changes to Taylor Bridge asking which of these three options they believed would best serve the region.
As of November 22, my office has received over 500 responses to the mail out. It is clear that residents are deeply invested in how this project should proceed.
Of the responses we received, 19 per cent believed Taylor Bridge should be replaced with another two-lane bridge, 73 per cent believed it should be a four-lane bridge, eight per cent thought the bridge should be resurfaced and two per cent were unsure. Some checked off more than one option which is why the percentages do not add up to 100.
It is clear from these responses that the vast majority of those living in the region believe we should be building for the future and that means building a four-lane bridge. I will be passing this information along to the Honourable Claire Trevena, BC Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure.
I also agree with Scott Maxwell, the Ministry’s Executive Director for the Northern Region, when he told the Fort St. John and District Chamber of Commerce that a four-lane highway from Alberta to Fort St. John would be ideal. This would mean turning the Taylor Bridge into four-lanes and I believe that’s what we need to pursue.
A few weeks ago Minister Trevena announced that her ministry will begin undertaking in-field geotechnical, hydro-technical and environmental investigations to help further prepare the options for Taylor Bridge. First Nation consultations and public engagement sessions are also scheduled to take place in the spring. I encourage everyone who has a vested interest in this project to take part in these consultations to ensure you voice is heard.
I know I will.