Delta may be out of luck when it comes to getting a 10-lane replacement bridge for the George Massey Tunnel.
During a meeting with the City of Richmond on Nov. 14, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claire Trevena indicated that the bridge likely won’t be a possible replacement option for the tunnel, according to a report to Richmond council.
“Given that the previous project was cancelled, the Minister advised that any future crossing improvement option would not include a 10-lane bridge,” the report reads. “The Ministry recognizes the significant negative impacts that the scale of such a project would have on the host communities, particularly for Richmond.”
For Delta mayor George Harvie, the reveal was disappointing but not surprising.
“The current provincial government actually killed the project over a year ago,” Harvie said. “The politics are that a 10-lane bridge would never been approved by this government, otherwise why did they stop it?
“Looking at it right now, I just want to see this project go ahead, whatever solution our provincial government wants to make, we need to do it now.”
The future of a replacement for the George Massey Tunnel has been in question since the NDP came into power last year.
The previous Liberal government had already begun site work on a 10-lane replacement bridge for the tunnel before the provincial election, and spent about $70-million on the project. When the NDP took over the legislature, the project was put on hold.
The new government then moved forward with an independent technical review of the tunnel, saying it felt that “not all the options were thoroughly examined” by the Liberals.
The technical review was finished and delivered to the ministry of transportation and infrastructure in June of this year. The report to Richmond council indicates the review will be released to the public by the end of this year.
The technical will include “potential crossing improvement options” and “greater detail regarding the process [that was] followed leading to the previously proposed 10-lane bridge,” Richmond’s report said.
When the review is released, the ministry will undertake technical briefings with stakeholders like Richmond, Delta, TransLink and Metro Vancouver, as well as engage with the community.
Delta South MLA Ian Paton spoke out against the minister’s meeting with Richmond in a tweet Friday (Nov. 30).
”We’ve been asking Minister Trevena to release the results of the Cowdell report for months, and officially confirm what we’ve known all along — that the Massey Tunnel bridge replacement project is dead,” he tweeted.
“After stringing the public along for several months, she’s suddenly run to the City of Richmond with information she should be making available to everyone. 100,000 daily commuters deserve answers. The NDP is putting politics ahead of what is best for the region.”
After stringing the public along for several months, she’s suddenly run to the City of Richmond with information she should be making available to everyone. 100,000 daily commuters deserve answers. The NDP is putting politics ahead of what is best for the region. #bcpoli 2/2
— Ian Paton (@IanPatonDelta) November 30, 2018
Paton has been a long-time supporter of the George Massey Tunnel replacement bridge, as an MLA and also as a former councillor with the City of Delta.
Delta has been one of the only communities in favour of the previous 10-lane bridge replacement, with former mayor Lois Jackson the only Metro Vancouver mayor that supported the project. Harvie brought up the issue of the George Massey crossing during the first meeting of the mayor’s council, and seems optimistic about his fellow mayors’ approach to the replacement.
Harvie now seems to be stepping back from his push for a bridge as a replacement, and focusing on the need for a crossing in general. During the election campaign, Harvie promised to push for a new bridge to replace the George Massey Tunnel.
“I know we are united as a council on the need for a new bridge to replace the aging George Massey Tunnel,” he said during his inaugural speech on Nov. 5. “I will take bold steps to move this forward, bring enhanced transit to Delta, improve safety, protect our agricultural land and plan for future rapid transit.”
Harvie and the past Delta council consistently spoke about the safety concerns of the current crossing, particularly in regards to traffic collisions and seismic stability. According to ICBC, 2017 saw 142 crashes in the George Massey Tunnel alone.
Although Harvie is no longer pushing for the likely defunct 10-lane bridge, he still says a replacement crossing would need to keep safety for first responders top of mind, as well as not take up any more agricultural land and include plans for rapid transit.
“Whatever solution they come up with, we will work with them to ensure that it’s the best fit for Delta,” Harvie said.