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Province to consult with new mayors before making move on bridge to replace Massey Tunnel

Will a bridge replace the George Massey Tunnel? Will another tunnel be built instead? Will nothing happen until further study and consultations are undertaken?
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Will a bridge replace the George Massey Tunnel? Will another tunnel be built instead? Will nothing happen until further study and consultations are undertaken?

Those are the big unknowns when it comes to a potential Fraser River crossing and it looks like it will be several more weeks before any light is shed on the issue.

 Opened in 1959, the George Massey Tunnel struggles to handle today's traffic volumes. Photograph By Gord GobleIn addition to tunnel improvements including new lighting, the province will begin scoping work for improvements to the Steveston interchange to reduce congestion along the corridor, as well as improvements on the Delta side of the traffic network.. Photograph By Gord Goble

Asked by the Optimist when the independent technical review of the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project will be made public, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure issued the following statement:

“We’ve heard the concerns around costs and impacts about building a 10-lane bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel, both from mayors and people in Metro Vancouver. That’s why government retained Stan Cowdell to lead an independent technical review of the options available for the corridor, to make sure that any future direction on the crossing works for people in the region.

“The ministry is thoroughly reviewing Mr. Cowdell’s report and possible next steps. The minister of transportation and infrastructure will be discussing its findings with Metro mayors in the coming weeks before making the independent review – and government’s next steps -- public later this fall.”

In September 2017, the government announced it was suspending the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project, an initiative of the previous Liberal government that would have seen a $3.5-billion, 10-lane bridge constructed by 2022.

It then hired Cowdell to lead a review of the project and other options, a report the province received this summer but has yet to make public.

During question period in the legislature this week, Delta South Liberal MLA Ian Paton continued to press the need to replace the aging tunnel.

“Delta mayor-elect George Harvie has a simple message for the transportation minister, and I quote: ‘We need a new bridge. That is the number one concern I heard. We need a new bridge.’”

Paton also asked, “When will this minister build the bridge?”

Premier John Horgan responded that the project was not part of the 10-year transportation plan devised by Metro mayors. Noting he met Delta Mayor Lois Jackson and discussed the issue at last month’s Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, Horgan said he and Transportation Minister Claire Trevena fully understand the traffic congestion situation at the tunnel and will work as “diligently as we can” to make sure the region understands the need to relieve such congestion points.

During the exchange Paton asked when the Cowdell report would be released, prompting the premier to respond the Mayors’ Council is in place “to make sure we make rational investments in the fastest growing part of British Columbia. Those rational investments have to be done with the view of meeting all the challenges in the region… not just the challenges of those in Delta.”

It likely isn’t good news if Metro Vancouver mayors have a say on whether the bridge becomes a reality. The majority of Metro mayors had voiced opposition to the project, although many did not seek re-election or were defeated in last Saturday’s civic election.

Both Jackson and mayor-elect George Harvie, Delta’s former CAO, were critical of other mayors, saying it’s all politics. Jackson said others on the Metro board admitted to her they wanted the funding for their own projects.

Harvie has pledged to continue the pressure to have a bridge built.