British Columbia

Massey Tunnel to be replaced with B.C.'s largest toll bridge

B.C.'s Transportation Minister rolled out his plans to build a new 10-lane toll bridge costing $3.5 billion, to replace the Massey Tunnel.

Ten things you need to know about the new bridge

This rendering shows what the new bridge across the Fraser River could look like. (B.C. Government)

B.C.'s Transportation Minister announced plans on Wednesday to replace the Massey Tunnel with a new 10-lane toll bridge.

The new $3.5-billion-bridge will connect Richmond with Delta across the Fraser River.

Here are ten key things you need to know about the plans.

1. It will be tolled

The prices have not been set but the tolls will be in the same range as those on the Port Mann Bridge, Minister Todd Stone confirmed on Wednesday morning.

The final price of the tolls will depend on a number of factors, including funding from the federal government and Port Metro Vancouver, and the final construction contracts, all of which have yet to be negotiated.

Unlike TransLink projects, there will be no referendum on any future tolls.

Nevertheless the ministry expects drivers will willingly pay the toll for the free-flowing traffic on the bridge during rush hour, rather than deal with the congestion on the un-tolled Alex Fraser Bridge nearby.

While some drivers may head to the Alex Fraser during weekend and evening, "most people will adjust back and forth," said a project spokesman at the briefing on Wednesday morning.

The new bridge is likely to have automated tolling, much like the Golden Ears and Port Mann bridges, also built by the province. (CBC)

2. It will be big

"This will be the largest bridge ever built in B.C. When completed, it will address what is now the worst traffic bottleneck in the province," said Minister Stone.

At three kilometres long, the cable-stay bridge will be 65 per cent longer than the recently completed Port Mann Bridge.

3. It should reduce congestion

"The new bridge will improve highway safety, reduce greenhouse gas emissions from unnecessary idling, and save rush-hour commuters up to 30 minutes a day," said Stone.

It is also expected to reduce crashes by 35 per cent, predict ministry officials.

4. It will have a bike lane

Currently cyclists using the tunnel have to load their bikes on a free shuttle that does not even run on weekends in the winter.

The new bridge will have a multi-use pathway for cyclists and pedestrians on the west side of the bridge, connecting to Steveston Highway and River Road South.

5. It will have HOV lanes

Unlike the tunnel, the new bridge will have full-time HOV lanes in both directions for buses and carpools.

And while it won't have a SkyTrain line, it will be built to potentially accommodate one some time in the future.

RAW: Bridge to replace Massey Tunnel

10 years ago
Duration 1:10
Featured VideoModel of new bridge to replace the George Massey Tunnel in B.C.

6. It will take a while to build

Construction is expected to begin in 2017 and take about five years to complete, meaning it will open in 2022 — if it is on time.

The two main piers that will support the bridge will be build on land on both sides of the Fraser River, minimizing disturbance to the river.

First though, it needs to pass environmental and agricultural land reviews, and then go out for tender to find a construction partner.

6. The tunnel will eventually close

The bridge will be built directly above the existing tunnel, which will remain open during construction, but then decommissioned after the bridge is opened, said Stone.

The tunnel, which was opened in 1959, no longer meets current seismic guidelines and would need major maintenance in the next ten years if it were to remain open.

It will likely be removed from the river bed, once it is closed, said Stone.

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

7. No extra height for ships

Clearance for ships under the bridge will be 57 metres in height, roughly equal to the Alex Fraser Bridge just up river.

Likewise the depth of the river will likely not change, since there are no plans to dredge the river to increase the draft for larger ships, following the removal of the tunnel.

It turns out the tunnel is not the shallowest point within the main shipping channel; the Steveston Cut at the mouth of the river is shallower.

8. Highway interchanges will be upgraded

Three nearby highway interchanges along Highway 99 will be upgraded at 17A, Steveston and Westminster highways.

There will also be improvement to the HOV lanes approaching the bridge, including a dedicated on-ramp at Bridgeport Road.

9. You can still have your say

The government is launching a third round of public consultation on the project, to gather feedback on the bridge design.

But first read the Project Definition Report (pdf) if you want more details on the project.

10. We still don't know the name!

Hopefully we won't be calling it the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project forever.

But for now the name of B.C.'s future largest bridge remains unknown. 

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