Mayors choose tunnel but province is still consulting on Massey replacement

An eight–lane immersed tunnel to replace the aging George Massey Tunnel is years away from reality, if that’s even the option that ends up being chosen by the provincial government.

The Optimist asked the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure what last week’s decision by a task force of Metro Vancouver mayors means as far as the timeline for a new Fraser River crossing and whether the mayors recommending an eight-lane tube would speed things along when it comes to the government selecting a preferred option, which isn’t expected until late next year.

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It doesn’t sound like the mayors weighing in will have much of an impact on the timeline as a written response from the ministry noted that while it’s pleased the task force was able to come to an agreement, the province will continue its engagement with First Nations and all affected stakeholders.

That consultation is expected to include public information sessions later this year.

“The province will make the final decision based on what we hear from Metro Vancouver, First Nations and others in our engagement process,” the response stated. “Any project option that is ultimately put forward for approval will be subject to a formal and rigorous environmental review process which includes additional and very focused consultation.”

As far as timeline once a crossing option has been chosen, the ministry stated environmental assessments are typically multi-year processes and that once all the approvals are in place, construction would take approximately five years, meaning it could be a decade before Highway 99 commuters see any relief.

The mayors, including Delta’s George Harvie, preferred the eight-lane immersed tunnel option of several put forward by a technical committee. Only Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Ken Baird was opposed.

A report to the task force noted a bridge could impact nearby residences in Delta by the traffic noise, lights and shade.

Following the vote, Harvie told the Optimist the last thing he wants is to impact Delta communities.

“The problem I had was the dramatic effect it was going to have on the Captain’s Cove/Marina Garden Estates development and the existing RiverHouse residential development with shading, the visual, the noise. For that reason I support the immersed tunnel because it will have less impact on my community. I said I would not turn my back on the Delta residents that live there,” Harvie said.        

Saying it looks like the new crossing won’t be built until around 2030 because the project would have to go through a lengthy federal environmental review process due to the river being impacted, Delta South MLA Ian Paton said the mayors played right into the NDP government’s hands.

“Now they’re saying the main reason they want a tunnel over a bridge is because of some shading? There’s dozens of bridges in Metro Vancouver now that have been there for years, so this isn’t something new. And that new development at Captain’s Cove Marina, those townhouses, I’m pretty sure those people bought in there the last couple of years knowing there’s going to be a change to the George Massy Tunnel,” he said.

Paton noted the environmental assessment for the previous George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project was finished and construction about to begin. Even if the NDP government scaled it back to eight lanes, it would have been completed by 2022.

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