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The proposed Golden Ears Bridge is a P3 link that will cross the Fraser River to connect Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge with Surrey and Langley. Due to open in 2009, the project has already seen a cost increase of 30 per cent. The final cost won’t be known until February 2006, but chances are the cost will go up again.

The six-lane bridge was initially estimated at $600 million and now sits at $800 million thanks to a recent decision by TransLink, the body set up by the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority to oversee transit projects.

TransLink announced it would reduce the financial burden for the private consortium, Golden Crossing Group. As a result, TransLink took on the financing of $166 million in new project costs, including $56 million to buy land at the approaches to the bridge and cover increases in development expenses.

P3 consortia are hardly ever interested in nuts-and-bolts infrastructure like bridge approaches that can’t be leased or used in some commercial capacity. So it’s no surprise Golden Crossing Group wanted to unload them.

Most of the increase is due to a proposed reduction in the licensing fee payable to TransLink by Golden Crossing Group, reported the Georgia Straight (Dec. 8, 2005). The fee dropped to $50 million from $150 million.

A TransLink press release dated Sept. 21, 2005, touted the added financial responsibility as actually saving between $35 million and $45 million. (Go to www.translink.bc.ca/About_TransLink/News_Releases/news09210502.asp.)

This change in financing begs the question: if TransLink can save $35 to $45 million on financing $166 million, why don’t they finance the whole project and save even more money for B.C. taxpayers? Moreover, why is TransLink financing what would have been licensing fees that it was owed? It seems that licensing fees are just another cost that Golden Crossing Group can be built into the overall price of the project and charge back to TransLink and therefore the B.C. taxpayer).

On the environmental front, Golden Ears Bridge comes up short because it will have no high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, contradicting the Greater Vancouver Regional District’s sustainable region initiative. The initiative proposes to reduce vehicle use and greenhouse gases. Without HOV lanes, Golden Ears Bridge is discouraging car-pooling and boosting toll revenues.

The Golden Ears Bridge is another blow to the financial and environmental well being of B.C.’s citizens. They’ve been blindsided by their own government’s short-sightedness and the greed of Golden Crossing Group.