A Richmond city councillor is denouncing an ongoing ad campaign by the neighbouring community of Delta as “fake news” that “fudges the facts” on the proposed replacement to the Massey Tunnel.

The ads, which began running last month, claim an upgraded tunnel between Richmond and Delta is “not an option” because it wouldn’t be safe in an earthquake – a claim denied by Richmond’s engineering staff.

“This ad is a really great example of fake news. They’ve taken facts that aren’t in context and put them together to tell us something that isn’t real,” Coun. Harold Steves said.

Delta approved a $35,000 budget for the advertisement. According to documents obtained by CTV News, some $19,000 of that money has already been spent on newspapers in Vancouver, Richmond, and Delta, as well as online. The city also bought the weneedabridge.ca domain name to promote the project.

The campaign is in support of building the $3.5 billion bridge that would replace the tunnel and increase the capacity from four lanes to 10.

The ad claims that “the existing tunnel cannot be sufficiently seismically upgraded,” and would not be “physically capable of withstanding a moderate to severe earthquake.”

Delta Coun. Sylvia Bishop told CTV News that claim was based on reviewing thousands of pages of studies on the proposed bridge.

“That’s not stuff that’s made up. That’s been excerpted from the engineering reports,” she said.

Richmond’s director of transportation, Victor Wei, reviewed the claims in the ad as part of a report to that city’s council.

Wei agreed the current tunnel is built to a standard of being able to withstand a one in 275 year seismic event, based on work completed in 2006.

“However, the tunnel is capable of undergoing further seismic upgrades to enable the structure to sustain repairable damage and remain usable following a 1 in 475 year seismic event,” Wei wrote.

That upgrade would not increase the bridge to current earthquake standards, which are built to withstand and earthquake that would happen one every 2,475 years.

However, the upgraded tunnel “would render the tunnel comparable to the current seismic ratings of other existing lifeline crossings in Greater Vancouver such as the Lions Gate Bridge, Ironworkers Memorial Bridge, Oak Street Bridge, and Queensborough Bridge,” he said.

That $30,000 could have been better spent in Delta, Steves said.

“It’s fearmongering. I could do a story on Oak Street Bridge that could knock your socks off. It’s a matter of where you realistically want to spend your dollars,” he said.

The Massey Bridges’ future is up in the air after the Liberal government, which championed the bridge, was eventually defeated following the B.C. election in May.

The new NDP government had criticized the bridge’s costs, and has promised to defer decisions on the bridge to the Metro Vancouver Mayors Council, which has said that increasing the capacity of the crossing isn’t part of their transportation plan.

Richmond has asked the province to consider a twinned tunnel. Preliminary work is continuing on the bridge, and the province did not answer CTV News’ questions on what would happen to current bids for work.

“Over the weeks and months ahead, the province will be examining the project and evaluating the different options available to ensure we move forward with a project that best serves the entire region and gets the best value for money,” a statement from the provincial ministry of transportation read.