The mayor of the City of North Vancouver is proposing a different solution to the gridlock on the North Shore bridges — a SkyTrain tunnel under Burrard Inlet.

Mayor Darrell Mussatto says traffic to and from the North Shore is among the worst in the Lower Mainland and there are currently no long-term plans to fix it.

"We've had no real improvements in over 60 years. There are nine lanes getting on and off the North Shore, so we need to do something," he said. 

The North Shore is currently connected to Vancouver by two bridges over the Burrard Inlet — the Lions Gate Bridge and the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Crossing. There is also a passenger-only SeaBus service operated by TransLink.

Now, Mussatto is proposing TransLink study the cost of putting in a three-kilometre SkyTrain tunnel under the harbour to connect Waterfront Station and Lonsdale Quay.

Better than a new bridge?

Overview of Burrard Inlet

The North Shore connects to Vancouver via two bridges over the Burrard Inlet — the Lions Gate Bridge and the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Crossing. (Google Maps)

The idea of some sort of third link between the North Shore and Vancouver is not a new proposal.

"It is a perennial discussion and it usually focuses on building more bridge capacity," Mussatto said.

But he says new bridges across the inlet wouldn't help.

"When you build new bridges, it's like buying new pants and loosening your pants to deal with the obesity — it doesn't solve the problem. We have to look at the alternatives."

An environmentally friendly option

Mussatto said a SkyTrain tunnel would take cars off the road. He said the fixed link would also help ease congestion for anyone heading to the rapidly growing communities of Squamish and Whistler.

"All those people funnel through the North Shore," he said. "If we give people who are going to the North Shore an alternative, the ones that really need their cars to go up to Squamish or Whistler can do so."

As for TransLink's commitment to increase service for the existing SeaBus commuter route, Mussatto questioned whether buying SeaBuses and increasing staffing would be most efficient in the long term.

"We don't really know much about it at all  but we're making some very significant long-term decisions here about transportation," he said.

"We just can't do one-off decisions that work for our political cycle. We have to deal with climate change and long-term ways how people are going to live in our region."

With files from The Early Edition

To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled North Vancouver mayor Darrell Mussatto on a proposed transit tunnel under Burrard Inlet