It’s looking like Delta will be getting another tunnel, instead of a bridge, if the provincial government ends up agreeing with the Metro Vancouver recommendation for an eight-lane immersed tube.
It wouldn’t be the first time a bridge project was killed by a new provincial government, according to local historian and community activist Doug Massey.
His father George having spearheaded the proposal to build a new tunnel connecting Delta to Richmond, Massey notes that in 1904, the first major Fraser River crossing was built from New Westminster to Brownsville on the Surrey side. It was a railway swing bridge, with an upper deck for automobiles, and remained that way until Patullo Bridge was opened in 1937. The toll was 25 cents, each way.
In 1910 the Richmond Board of Trade petitioned the Richmond Council requesting that a bridge be built across the Fraser River from Lulu Island to Ladner, he said.
On Feb. 8, 1927, a bill was passed by the then provincial government establishing the Fraser River Bridge Co. to build a bridge from Ladner to Richmond.
At that time, New Westminster council, the New Westminster Board of Trade and the New Westminster Harbour Commission strongly opposed the proposed low level bridge crossing from Richmond to Delta, and urged that the bridge be built at New Westminster instead.
The Terminal Engineering Consultants was hired by the Department of Transport of B.C., to undertake a full traffic study of the Lower Mainland and, as a result, the act of 1927 was amended in 1931 to fix the site of the proposed bridge to be at or near Deas Island.
In 1931 Richmond council passed a bylaw authorizing the Ladner Bridge Co. to build a toll bridge at a cost of $2.6 million from Richmond to Ladner on or near Deas Island.
This was also supported by Delta Municipality, explained Massey.
In 1931, the federal government authorized the construction of highways to connect to the proposed new bridge.
In 1933, the Ladner Bridge Co. reported, that it had started work on the wharf, the road connections and test borings for the new bridge.
That same year, however, an election was held and a new provincial government was elected, led by Premier T.D. Patullo, who was M.L.A. for New Westminster.
The new government put a hold on the construction and location of the bridge from Woodward’s Landing to Deas Island, stating that it was not in the public interest and obstruct river traffic.
In 1934 the government changed the site of the Ladner bridge to New Westminster.
Before the tunnel, for many years the only way to reach Vancouver from South Delta was by ferry service to Richmond.
The Social Credit provincial government announced the Deas Island Tunnel project in March 1957.
Later renamed the George Massey Tunnel, the $17 million project was completed in May 1959.