The B.C. government has laid out five potential scenarios to upgrade or replace the Lower Mainland's George Massey Tunnel, and is now seeking the public input on the options.
The options include:
- Maintaining and upgrading the existing tunnel with no increase in capacity.
- Replacing the tunnel with a new bridge in the same location.
- Replacing the tunnel with a new tunnel alongside the existing one.
- Adding a new bridge or tunnel alongside the existing one and keeping the existing one.
- Building a new bridge or tunnel from No. 8 Road to the new South Fraser Perimeter Road, and keeping the existing tunnel.
All of the options to build a new tunnel or bridge include HOV lanes, bike and pedestrian access, and improvements to Highway 99's interchanges with Steveston Road and Highway 17 on the north and south sides of the Fraser River.
Public input sought
The government has created a website and has scheduled a second round of open houses in Richmond, Surrey, and Delta this week for people to examine the options in depth and give their input.
In addition the province has laid out five goals for the project, based on the results of the first round of public consultation and a consultant's report. Those goals for the project include:
- Reducing congestion and travel times.
- Improving traffic and seismic safety, and emergency response capabilities.
- Improving access to local businesses and "gateways."
- Increasing transit ridership and potential for future rapid transit on Highway 99.
- Providing cyclist and pedestrian access.
- Minimizing impacts on agricultural, park and industrial lands.
- Minimizing environmental impacts.
- Involving communities, businesses and stakeholders in the project.
Tunnel already over capacity
The Massey Tunnel crosses under the Fraser River between Richmond and Delta, south of Vancouver. It is a major thoroughfare for commuters south of the Fraser heading into Richmond or Vancouver.
The provincial government announced plans to replace the crossing in September, but it is expected it will be at least a decade before any replacement is opened. No funding has yet been allocated to the project.
An estimated 80,000 vehicles now use the tunnel every day, and it is congested for hours most weekdays. Officials say that with increased development south of the Fraser River, traffic through the tunnel is only expected to get worse.
The original tunnel, which was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1959, cost of $25 million and replaced the old ferry service. Officials say the existing tunnel has only 10 to 15 years of useful life remaining before major components will need to be completely replaced.
Is the Massey Tunnel 'jumping the queue'?
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is concerned with how quickly options for an overhaul to the Massey Tunnel have come forth.
In an interview with CBC Radio One's On the Coast with host Stephen Quinn, Robertson expressed his concern with plans for the tunnel project.
"It appears that the tunnel options are coming a lot faster and that's disconcerting if that project somehow skips the queue and gets ahead of Surrey and Vancouver transit."
Robertson says a lot of work has taken place on transit projects and that work should take precedence over the tunnel.
"That was a very accelerated process, let's say, compared to the options we've looked at in Vancouver and Surrey which have taken a couple of years to develop and a lot of consultation, a lot of work with the community, and a lot of looks at different technologies."
Robertson is calling on the provincial government to step up funding for a Broadway corridor subway line.