British Columbia

Have your say on how you want the Massey Tunnel to be replaced

Metro Vancouver residents are getting their say about a replacement for the George Massey Tunnel as the province begins public consultations over the aging Fraser River crossing between Richmond and Delta.

Public consultations taking place Wednesday and Thursday on what a future Fraser River crossing will look like

Massey Tunnel during rush hour in April 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Metro Vancouver residents are getting their say about a replacement for the George Massey Tunnel as the province begins public consultations over the aging Fraser River crossing between Richmond and Delta.

The project to replace the 60-year-old tunnel has been debated for years.

The previous B.C. Liberal government started preliminary work on a 10-lane bridge, but the New Democrats cancelled that $3.5 billion project after they came to power in 2017. The NDP then asked a committee of Metro Vancouver mayors and municipal leaders to weigh in and in 2019, that task force recommended an eight-lane, immersed-tube tunnel.

Now, the NDP is engaging in two days of public consultations to find out what people in the region want.

They will take place at the Legacy Lounge in the Richmond Olympic Oval on Feb. 5 and in the Pacifc Ballroom at the Coast Tsawwassen Inn on Feb.6, both beginning at 4 p.m. PT.

The provincial government has also provided an online feedback form that will accept submissions until Feb. 26 at 4 p.m.

"We still need to make sure that people who are going to be using it, who live in the area, have a chance to have comment on a project," said Transportation Minister Claire Trevena on CBC's The Early Edition Wednesday.

"We are making sure that we get the infrastructure we really do need."

She said while it may be frustrating for people currently battling congestion in the existing tunnel, the NDP are not trying to delay the project but, instead, are trying to find the right solution for the region.

"We are very confident we're going to get a business case by the early fall," said the minister.

The B.C. Liberals planted signs beside Highway 91 near the Massey Tunnel after the NDP took power in 2017 and scrapped plans for a 10-lane bridge. 'The bridge replacement would be well over halfway done by now,' says South Delta MLA Ian Paton. (Frederic Gagnon/CBC)

Ian Paton, Liberal MLA for Delta South, said the province's plan to consult with the public now is "almost laughable."

"Everybody and I mean everybody, including the City of Delta and whatnot, believed that the bridge was absolutely the best option," said Paton, who added that more than 3,000 people have already participated in stakeholder consultations over several years.

He said his office is inundated by constituents who are frustrated with the current situation, including people from the trucking industry who are "boondoggled" by the wait times to get through the tunnel.

"The bridge replacement would be well over halfway done by now," said Paton.

An artist's rendering of the 10-lane bridge proposed to replace the Massey Tunnel by the previous Liberal government. The plan was scrapped by the NDP and local mayors instead voted for an eight-lane tunnel. (CBC)

'We have to be visionaries'

Delta Mayor George Harvie was an early supporter of the 10-lane bridge proposal and then aligned with fellow mayors to support the eight-lane tunnel, which has two lanes dedicated to transit.

He said the Fraser Valley is a growing area and it is important to think long term about how people will be commuting in  the decades to come — and that should include considering light rail transit.

"We have to be visionaries," said Harvie on The Early Edition. "We need to get people out of their cars and if we are not thinking in the future we're going to have problems here."

Trevena said transportation planners have recommended buses and there is no need for a light rail system in the foreseeable future.

When it comes to the present, Harvie would like the province to speed things up.

"You asked us to give an opinion and the mayors were solid on that opinion. Now it's up to the province to get going on building this asset," he said.

An environmental assessment will be required once the province has determined which kind of infrastructure will be built.

With files from The Early Edition

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