British Columbia

Delta mayor defends support for proposed bridge to replace Massey tunnel

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson is the only mayor in Metro Vancouver to favour replacing the Massey Tunnel with a bridge. As Richmond presses for alternatives to a span, Jackson reiterated her support for project.

Lois Jackson says a bridge would cause less harm to the environment

An artist's rendering of the proposed bridge to replace the George Massey tunnel. (CBC)

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson says she will continue to back a proposal to build a 10-lane bridge to replace the George Massey tunnel, saying a bridge would cause less harm to the Fraser River.

Her comments came shortly after Richmond City Council directed staff compile a new report on possible alternatives to a proposed bridge.

One alternative would be to twin the current four-lane tunnel.

Lone mayor to support bridge

Jackson is the only mayor in Metro Vancouver to support the bridge option. The Metro Vancouver Mayors' Council rejected the span proposal last year.

The tunnel, which was built in 1959, runs beneath the Fraser River and links Richmond and Delta. The provincial Liberal goverment backed a plan to replace the tunnel with a bridge, arguing that it has become a traffic bottleneck and is seismically unsound.

"Is there anything that would change your mind?" asked Gloria Macarenko, host of CBC's On the Coast.

"To a tunnel? Not unless I became a non-environmentalist," said Jackson, adding she's concerned about the impact expanding the tunnel would have on the Fraser River's marine environment.

Jackson said congestion is getting worse as the population in the region increases.

"We're a huge hub here for transportation nationally, provincially and locally. There's two million containers coming into the port every year and we're the hub of all that," said Jackson

Uncertain future

Although early groundwork on the project is already underway, the future of the bridge is in question while a new government is preparing to take over in Victoria.

The tunnel falls under the jurisdiction of the provincial government unlike many of the bridges in Metro Vancouver which are operated by TransLink, Metro Vancouver's regional transportation network.

Premier-designate John Horgan has said he supports the Mayors' Council's 10-year transportation plan and would defer to the mayors on the future of the George Massey Tunnel.

The mayors have said building the bridge would lead to more vehicles on the road and wouldn't decrease congestion. 

Jackson disagreed with comments made earlier in the week by Richmond City Councillor Carol Day.

Day had expressed concerns that the financing for the bridge could cost the province up to $8 billion, bringing the total cost of a new bridge to $12 billion.

But Jackson pointed to a 14,000 page information package that she said shows a bridge would be $800 million cheaper than twinning the tunnel.

With files fro CBC Radio's On the Coast