RICHMOND (NEWS 1130) – Every day, you can see the line-ups stretching back from the Massey Tunnel along Highway 99, and road-weary commuters will get a chance to learn a little more about plans to replace it at an open house today in Richmond.
But not everyone will be praising the province’s predicted benefits as protesters plan to raise their concerns at the public meeting and the city is also forwarding a report outlining “significant gaps” in the planning process. “We have been speaking about this ever since the project was announced — we simply don’t have the level of detail and the justification needed for this massive project,” says Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie.
“We are concerned about the impacts on our local roads and we are certainly concerned about the impacts of tolling. It seems like traffic will be reduced down to current levels so it really begs the question as to why we are doing this project if all we end up with is a tolled facility handling today’s levels of traffic.”
The report from Richmond’s transportation department outlines a number of concerns being raised by local transportation planners about the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project, which is due to start in 2017 and be completed by 2021, resulting in a new 10-lane bridge across the Fraser River between Delta and Richmond.
“We certainly have concerns about the impact on agricultural land and the loss of 20 per cent of a park,” says Brodie. “And we have now learned about the visual impact. We’ve received word from BC Hydro that they are not going to run the cables underground so we will be faced with a set of massive transmission towers beside the bridge.”
Brodie says the city is also concerned about potential economic impacts and noise issues. “We’ve brought all of this to the attention of the province but we haven’t gotten a sufficient level of detail.”
Today’s open house is being hosted by the BC Environmental Assessment Office from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Sandman Hotel on St. Edwards Drive.
Protesters from the grassroots group Fraser Voices plan to be there to hand out leaflets and outline similar concerns. “The province has simply not been accountable and they haven’t put forward any real business case for why we need to have a $4 billion, 10-lane bridge at that location,” says the group’s Nick Slater. “It’s about being accountable for our tax dollars.”
The group and Brodie both suggest the provincial government hasn’t given enough thought to alternatives to the new bridge, including better investment in transit.