THE Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is proceeding with an independent technical review of the George Massey Tunnel corridor to find a solution that gets people and goods moving and makes sense for commuters across the region, the Province announced on Wednesday.
The ministry is in the process of recruiting the individual to lead the technical review, and will support the review with expertise in highway infrastructure construction, transportation planning and traffic engineering.
The review will focus on what level of improvement is needed in the context of regional and provincial planning, growth and vision, as well as which option would be best for the corridor, be it the proposed 10-lane bridge, a smaller bridge or tunnel.
The Province’s work on the project, up to this point, will be looked at closely as part of the independent review, including technical information developed by the project team and from Metro Vancouver municipalities, as well as new analysis that includes looking at how the removal of tolls will affect the crossing.
While the review is underway, Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claire Trevena will engage mayors from Metro Vancouver, including Richmond and Delta, to gather their perspectives on the project, and to ensure that any plan for this corridor reflects their ideas and fits into the overall vision for the region.
Based on the recommendations received, the Province will determine next steps to address the congestion along the Highway 99 corridor.
Pending the outcome of the review, the current procurement process has been cancelled and the project will not be budgeted for in the government’s capital plan until a solution has been identified. The terms of the request for proposals dictate that each of the two final bidding teams will be paid up to $2 million to help offset their expenses to date.
The Province has spent approximately $66 million on the estimated $3.5-billion project. BC Hydro has spent approximately $25 million on its transmission relocation project. Work completed to date is expected to be utilized regardless of which option is chosen. Valuable property has been acquired, pre-load construction work along the Highway 99 corridor is wrapping up, and technical work and analysis will be considered as government moves forward to improve the crossing.
LIBERAL Party MLAs on both sides of the Massey Tunnel said they are concerned that the NDP government’s cancelling of the current replacement bridge is putting the safety of commuters at risk in order to further their political agenda.
“This is an unacceptable delay for those who travel through the tunnel every day,” said Delta South MLA Ian Paton. “This is a project that needs to be built in order to protect those who could be caught in the tunnel during an earthquake, as well as relieve pressure on the worst bottleneck in the province. This will cost taxpayers millions right now and likely billions when the NDP realize a new crossing – a bridge – is needed.”
The Liberals said that the replacement bridge would save rush-hour commuters up to 30 minutes for the 80,000 people a day who use the tunnel. Benefits would be felt across the province by improving the safe, efficient movements of people and goods along a route which moves $25 billion worth of goods per year.
“Building a bridge is the most safe and cost efficient way to get people across the river,” said Richmond-Queensborough MLA Jas Johal. “This project has undergone five years of planning and consultation and the NDP don’t even have anyone appointed to lead this review, let alone an actual plan to replace the tunnel. This to me looks like certain projects and issues are not a priority for this government unless it serves their political aspirations.”
By saying no to this project, the NDP are also saying no to 9,000 construction jobs and 4,500 to 5,000 additional permanent jobs created by 2045.
ANDREW Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party and MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, said: “I am glad that the government will review the options for this project,” said MLA Weaver. “In our Confidence and Supply Agreement, we agreed that transit and transportation infrastructure must be developed in cooperation with the Mayors’ Council in a way that reduces emissions, creates jobs and gets people home faster.”
Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, added: “This project is not part of the Mayor’s Council 10 year plan for regional transportation. It is essential that such costly and major projects be planned in an integrated fashion in cooperation with municipal officials so that we can meet the transportation needs of British Columbians in the most efficient and cost-effective way.”