British Columbia

Premier hints at plan to twin Metro Vancouver's Massey Tunnel

Premier John Horgan says a twin-tunnel proposal for the major Metro Vancouver traffic bottleneck will get serious consideration from his government.

Horgan says mayors now appear united in support of reducing congestion by going under the Fraser River

Local municipalities and First Nations have demanded action on congestion at the 60-year-old tunnel, which they called a 'terrible bottleneck.' (Frederic Gagnon/CBC)

Premier John Horgan says a twin-tunnel proposal for a major Metro Vancouver traffic bottleneck will get serious consideration from his government.

Horgan says Metro Vancouver mayors now appear united in their support for a plan to reduce traffic congestion at the current George Massey Tunnel on Highway 99 under the Fraser River.

Horgan says the mayors' proposal is less costly, faster to build and would not require tolls.

The B.C. government cancelled plans for a 10-lane bridge to replace the 60-year-old tunnel shortly after it took office, saying it was the wrong project and communities didn't want the bridge.

Horgan says the treasury board will examine the cost of the twinning project and the province will go back to the federal government to ask for funding.

The mayors of Delta, Richmond, Surrey, Vancouver and White Rock along with the chiefs of the Musqueam and Tsawwassen First Nations wrote to the premier last month asking for action to resolve the "terrible bottleneck."

The joint letter said the leaders agree that the project should include six lanes for regular traffic, two lanes for public transit and have access for enhanced rapid transit, with the potential to include high-speed rail.

"We believe only tunnel options, including a cost-effective deep bored tunnel if possible, should be considered," the joint letter says.

It says Transport Canada is accepting applications through the National Trade Corridors Fund for projects like this and the government should be taking advantage of the funding opportunity.

Horgan told a news conference on Thursday that his government views consensus among the leaders as an opportunity to move quickly on a replacement.

"We have talked to the federal government who would not participate in the former Massey plan because there were tolls involved, so now that we have an opportunity to get a federal partner and we have unanimity at the Mayors' Council, I think there's every possibility that we can get started on this in a more timely way."

Liberals say project needs to be sped up

In a statement, B.C. Liberal MLA Jas Johal called Thursday's musing by the premier a "stall tactic" that misrepresents what local mayors are requesting.

He said simply twinning the tunnel would trigger federal environmental assessments that would further delay the project while commuters suffer.

"Lower Mainland residents are tired of idling in gridlock, burning ever-more-expensive gasoline," Johal, the MLA for Richmond-Queensborough, said.

"John Horgan needs to act quickly to resolve this long-overdue issue."

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, however, said he was "gratified" by the premier's remarks.

He added that a deep-bored tunnel would be best as it could potentially run deep enough to avoid protruding into the Fraser River at all, avoiding potential environmental problems.

"Our city council has long taken the position that the most viable option from our point of view is to twin the tunnel," Brodie said. 

"We were very pleased today to hear that maybe we're going to come to a conclusion much sooner than later."

With files from Liam Britten

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