Delta officials are commissioning a study of the economic impact of traffic congestion at the George Massey Tunnel, in a bid to secure government financing for a new north-south corridor.

The Corporation of Delta hopes the proposed three-month study will convince the provincial and federal governments of the need to commit funding to a new north-south route.

Delta Chief Administrative Officer George Harvie says traffic congestion in the tunnel is affecting the economy both provincially and within the Metro Vancouver area.

"It needs to get on the table. You just have to talk to the businesses that are having problems and the people sitting in the traffic," said Harvie.

A request for proposals for the study says the 53-year-old tunnel's limited capacity is already contributing to severe traffic congestion.

The tender cites "a significant increase in the number of vehicle trips" that is expected from development of the Tsawwassen First Nation lands, the expansion of Deltaport Terminal 2 and the ongoing growth of Surrey.

The successful bidder will have to estimate the associated cost of north-south traffic delays to the Lower Mainland's economy.

Infrastructure changes underway

The province has committed billions to the Gateway Project and a four-lane South Fraser Perimeter Road to move goods from the Delta ports to B.C.'s Interior. But Harvie says a lot of industrial traffic continues to use the Massey Tunnel.

He hopes Victoria and Ottawa will be swayed by an economic argument.

"If you can show that the money that they've spent isn't efficient — in this case because of the road network — then it catches everybody's attention," he said.

"The more studies that are done by cities like Delta and hopefully Richmond and Vancouver and Surrey will also do their own, the more we can show the need insofar as improving our gateway to China. We need to ensure that the products aren't being stalled either coming or going."

Delta South Independent MLA Vicki Huntington says traffic congestion is a huge issue for communities north and south of the Fraser.

"This study is yet another vehicle by which pressure can be put on the province to do something about this significant artery that is under enormous pressure," she says.

"There is no relief to the development either industrial or residential that any of us can see."

Huntington believes a new bridge will ultimately replace the tunnel.

Harvie says any solution cannot involve construction on the tunnel that would further delay traffic.