British Columbia

As George Massey Tunnel turns 60, interest group calls for quick replacement

The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association is staging a 60th birthday party for the George Massey Tunnel, which opened to traffic on May 23, 1959.

Industry association staging tongue-in-cheek birthday party for crossing between Delta and Richmond

Thursday marks 60 years since traffic began moving under the Fraser River between Richmond and Delta. Now the George Massey Tunnel experiences daily congestion and delays. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The official opening of the George Massey Tunnel, with Queen Elizabeth II in attendance, took place on July 15, 1959, but it was a couple of months earlier, on May 23, when vehicles began travelling under the Fraser River between Delta and Richmond, B.C.

To mark that anniversary, an industry group is staging a birthday party on Thursday — and urging the provincial government to hurry up and replace the aging tunnel.

"We've got a big birthday cake, we've got some, you know, cheesy '60' little balloons and things like that; little party hats," said Jordan Bateman with the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association.

"Mainly it's just a chance to remind people that this is an aging piece of infrastructure and we need to have government that's committed to replacing it much sooner than later," he said.

Bateman said some of the association's members were contractors working on the bridge to replace the tunnel, but the plan for a 10-lane crossing was shelved after the B.C. NDP took power.

In 1959, the region looked considerably different than it does today, Bateman says.

"Sixty years ago in that region, not much was happening. I mean this was before the port, the South Fraser was basically farm land," he said.

Now, the area experiences daily gridlock as drivers make the commute through what has become a notorious bottleneck. There's no rapid transit, and cyclists have to wait for a shuttle or take the Alex Fraser Bridge instead.

"[The tunnel] is now woefully undersized and desperately in need of a replacement, but the NDP government keeps dragging its heels on it," said Bateman, adding that the tunnel would be extremely dangerous in the event of an earthquake.

According to the B.C. government's website, the "Massey Crossing is now in the solution development phase."

The government said late last year that a decision on the new crossing will be made by fall 2020. Some local leaders have raised concerns that a new crossing will not be in place before 2030.

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