A new report from Metro Vancouver is warning that replacing the George Massey Tunnel with a new 10-lane bridge could mean more traffic and poorer air quality.

The report from senior planner Ray Kan says the vision goes against agreed-upon goals for the region, because it will encourage people to drive more, and switch from transit to single-occupancy vehicles.

The document calls that "short sighted," saying the bridge will likely lead to more congestion, unless the province does something to discourage driving.

"An expanded facility without additional complementary measure to discourage single-occupant vehicles and to encourage carpooling, transit and cycling would indeed be deficient and short-sighted," said the report.

"Unfettered access could easily result in a congested facility. Further, an expanded facility may simply move the 'bottleneck' further downstream or upstream."

More traffic 'unlivable'

On Wednesday, Metro Vancouver voted in favour of asking the province for further analysis on the bridge's impact on the environment.

"It's on the end of the peninsula, and if we continue to build more traffic, we are going to become unlivable," said Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan.

Surrey Mayor Diane Watts said a more integrated plan is needed that takes into account regional planning.

"We need to look at it critically, so that's what we're doing," Watts said.

"The province has their plans. TransLink has their plans. But it needs to be integrated. Otherwise you're spending good money after good money and there is no streamlining."

Minister defends bridge

Transportation Minister Todd Stone has defended the bridge plan, saying it will fix the worst choke point in the region.

"You talk to people south of the Fraser, and they'll tell you this replacement for the George Massey is long overdue," said Stone.

He also says the new bridge will mean more room for rapid transit on Highway 99, although there's no specific commitment from his ministry to make that happen.

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An estimated 80,000 vehicles now use the tunnel every day, leaving it congested for hours. (B.C. Government)

"Any suggestion that we're out of sync with regional planning is simply not true," said Stone.

"What we've demonstrated a track record of doing in the last 12 years is investing strategically in choke points around the Lower Mainland in both our transit and our transportation network."

Premier Christy Clark made the surprise announcement about the new mega-project in September.

Clark hasn't said how much the 10-lane bridge will cost, or whether there will be tolls, but promised construction will start in 2017.

               

With files from Lisa Johnson