It looks like it’s going to be a tunnel instead of a smaller new bridge that will replace the aging George Massey Tunnel.
That’s according to provincial New Democrat candidates Bruce Reid and Ravi Kahlon, responding to the B.C. Liberals recent criticism about the NDP government’s handling of the replacement project.
In a news release Monday, Reid, the candidate in Delta South, and Kahlon, the NDP incumbent in Delta North, pledged their government will get a new crossing built quickly.
“We are committed to helping people get where they need to go and are working full steam ahead on plans for a toll-free Massey replacement,” said Kahlon.
“I’m encouraged that the mayors have come together to support a brand new eight-lane tunnel and as MLA I will make sure to get it done.”
The B.C. NDP’s plans for the new crossing are well underway with the project business case to be completed this fall, Kahlon explained.
Local mayors have long called for a new crossing to relieve critical transportation issues, said Reid and Kahlon, noting they will work to deliver an eight-lane immersed tube tunnel.
“For too long, people in Delta, Surrey and Richmond have dealt with transportation bottle-necks that have hurt businesses and made life harder for families. From imposing unfair tolls to a long-term lack of infrastructure investment, the B.C. Liberals just made the situation worse,” said Reid. “Now they want to change course and start all over again, risking years of delays and the loss of federal funding.”
Reid added that a re-elected NDP government would collaborate with federal partners to finalize funding by the end of the year, working with municipalities to build a new crossing that works best for the communities.
Reid told the Optimist that while plans haven’t been finalized, all the information that he’s been able to gather until this point indicates that "it's 95 per cent" the new tunnel option would likely be selected.
The transportation ministry unveiled two replacement options at an open house in Tsawwassen earlier this year, one being an immersed eight-lane tunnel and the other being a long-span bridge with the same number of lanes.
Last year, a task force of Metro Vancouver mayors endorsed an eight-lane immersed tunnel proposal, but the provincial government had the final say.
The ministry noted the eight-lane immersed tube option would have a similar grade as bridge, while having low property impacts.
It would also be taller inside than the current tunnel, requiring a deeper trench in the river.
For the in-river sections, the new tunnel would be placed in a trench next to the existing immersed tunnel. The trench would be created by an open cut excavation.
The ministry also noted that while there would be in-river impacts during construction, there’s also potential for in-river habitat enhancement.
The option would also be a shorter crossing, compared to a bridge, while having a comparable cost.
The tunnel project would have an estimated three-year environmental review and require five years of construction.
Also having dedicated transit lanes, a long-span bridge would have more height clearance compared to the Liberal government’s previous 10-lane bridge plan.
According to the ministry, there would be no piers in the Fraser River for a bridge, however, they would be required in Deas Slough.
A bridge would also have long-term noise, light, visual and shading effects, the ministry said.
That project would have a one-to-two year environmental review and require five years for construction.
Asked by some attending the Tsawwassen session why there would even be a need for an environmental assessment for a bridge, since assessment work had already been done with the previous bridge plan, ministry representatives said the two bridge projects were different, requiring a complex amendment to the previous completed assessment.
The representatives also stressed the long-span bridge option was not as big a project as the previous bridge plan.
The go-ahead to initiate the environmental review for either option would happen in 2021, something that Delta South Liberal candidate Ian Paton warned would result in a new crossing not available for a decade.
Responding to Monday’s announcement, Paton said there is not a single mention of the Massey Tunnel in the entire 57-page NDP platform document.
Today saw a hastily put together, last-minute announcement from two desperate candidates who are finally realizing that the people of Delta are furious at their complete inaction on the file, Paton claimed.
“Delta commuters are tired of the NDP's lies and excuses - the NDP has had 3.5 years to produce one single shred of evidence that they are moving forward on a replacement for the aging and seismically unsafe Massey Tunnel,” Paton said. “There is no money set aside for a tunnel replacement in their five-year transportation plan. They have wasted an entire term of government ‘studying’ the issue while Delta commuters have sat in the worst traffic bottleneck in British Columbia.”
Noting it will take years for a tunnel plan to wind its way through the application process, Paton added the Tsawwassen First Nation is also opposed to putting a new tunnel in the Fraser River.
Delta South Green candidate Peter van der Velden recently told the Optimist that the Liberal 10-lane bridge was never planned to alleviate traffic issues, but instead designed for the Port of Vancouver to bring deep ships up the Fraser.
The NDP has designed a plan for a new crossing with regional government, but short-term solutions should be implemented to help commuters and business with traffic in this corridor, he said.
One major concern is the disruption of Highway 99 through a long construction period, he added.