British Columbia

Metro Vancouver mayors recommend 8-lane tunnel for new Massey crossing

A Metro Vancouver committee created to provide input to the provincial government on what a new Massey crossing should look like has recommended as its preferred option an eight-lane tunnel, with two lanes dedicated to transit.

If the province accepts the recommendation, public consultation and a business plan will be developed

The George Massey Tunnel is now 60 years old. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Commuters who drive through the Massey Tunnel every day learned a little bit more about what its replacement could look like — if not its price and timeline.

A Metro Vancouver committee created to provide input to the provincial government on a new Massey crossing has recommended an eight-lane immersed-tube tunnel — with two lanes dedicated to transit — as its preferred option. 

"It's clear from what we heard from [the Ministry of Transportation] and staff. In the longer run, an immersed tube tunnel has less effect on the environment," said Metro Vancouver chair Sav Dhaliwal, who led a committee consisting of local mayors and the chief of the Tsawwassen First Nation.

The committee considered six different options for the replacement:

  • An eight-lane bridge.
  • An eight-lane immersed-tube tunnel.
  • An eight-lane deep-bored tunnel.
  • A six-lane bridge.
  • A six-lane immersed-tube tunnel.
  • A six-lane deep-bored tunnel.

But the report given to the committee said a deep-bored tunnel would cost three times as much as other options, and that a bridge could cause adverse visual and noise impacts to surrounding communities. 

"The bridge option has been shown to create significant shading, and noise problems to Delta's new population," said Delta Mayor George Harvie.

"I won't turn my back on Delta residents"

If the recommendation is approved by the full Metro Vancouver board, the province has indicated it will begin public engagement, with a business plan scheduled to be completed by fall 2020. 

The most optimistic timeline for a replacement to be completed is 2025 or 2026. A budget has yet to be set. 

"These designs are in their early stages, and its not fair to commit to a dollar figure when we have a lot of details to work through," said Lina Halwani, the transportation ministry's director of planning for the George Massey crossing.

The provincial government's presentation on crossing options gave the highest marks to the immersed tube tunnel option. (Justin McElroy/CBC)

How did we get here? 

The previous B.C. Liberal government started preliminary work on a 10-lane bridge between Richmond and Delta in 2017, but the New Democrats cancelled the $3.5 billion project shortly after they were elected.

In 2018, the government announced no decision would be made on a replacement until 2020. But the tunnel is 60 years old, and as Metro Vancouver noted in its own briefing report: "It does not meet current seismic standards for new or improved infrastructure."

Politicians in Richmond, Delta and nearby communities have been adamant that a replacement needs to be a priority.

"There's all these options that have been looked at, and everybody's examined and thought about it and reconsidered over and over again, and nothing's happened," said Richmond Coun. Alexa Loo.

"Everybody's stuck there ... stuck ... trying to get their kids through the tunnel if they take gymnastics on the other side, or to hockey games or soccer games. It's holding up life here on both sides of the river."

An artist's rendering of the 10-lane bridge proposed to replace the George Massey tunnel by the previous Liberal government. A Metro Vancouver committee has now officially decided to recommend scrapping plans for a bridge, opting instead for an eight-lane tunnel. (CBC)

Loo was critical of the 10-lane bridge option being removed from the table, but Dhaliwal said it wasn't feasible. 

"Just building a 10 lane bridge without having a consideration as to where the density is going to be ... it's little bit too much for us to accept," he said.

"The way the last project was announced, without any consultation with either local governments or Metro presented a problem for us. Now, we are much more aligned with what our priorities are. We don't really want 10 lanes."

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said it was critical to move forward.  

"We've been talking about this from 2013," he said.

"I think there will be pros and cons expressed, but … we need to stop dithering and get it done."

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