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George Massey tunnel awarded environmental assessment certificate

Last Updated Feb 9, 2017 at 11:04 pm PST

Concept of a new bridge where George Massey Tunnel is currently situated. (Courtesy Ministry of Transportation)

George Massey tunnel replacement hits milestone, but mayors still don't agree on project

As new Fraser crossing passes environmental review, mayors argue over its merits

DELTA (NEWS 1130) – The bridge that will replace the Massey Tunnel has received its environmental assessment certificate – meaning it’s cleared another hurdle towards its completion.

The certificate was issued after considering a review led by BC’s Environmental Assessment Office.

The assessment included assurances that the bridge development wouldn’t have an impact on fish or fish habitat and that tunnel decommissioning would not result in changes to the size of vessels using the Fraser River.

The project milestone, however, illustrates why it’s such a contentious undertaking for the province.

“It’s going to make a huge negative impact on the City of Richmond and on the region,” says Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, who recites a long list of what he thinks is wrong with the project.

“There is no solution for northbound traffic going through to Vancouver. There is no improvement to the other bridges. There’s the issue of impact on farm land. There’s a lack of a tolling policy.”

He says Richmond city council felt there should have been improvements made to the tunnel instead of a new bridge.

“The plan was to buttress the existing tunnel to make it more seismically safe, which has happened. And it should have been twinned. You’d have more capacity and the ability to add light rail in there.”

Brodie and most of the rest of Metro Vancouver mayors came out against the bridge last year. The one hold out was Delta Mayor Lois Jackson.

She says there’s no point fretting about extra congestion going through Richmond and onto the Knight and Oak Street bridges.

“Sixty-four per cent of the traffic going through the tunnel in the morning goes to Richmond. They’re headed to the airport, or other places in Richmond.”

And Jackson says a second tunnel would have had more impact on the local environment.

“You can imagine how much farmland would have to be taken if you built a new tunnel system which would have to be further up river or down river.”

A toll system has yet to be announced for the bridge. Other tolled bridges, namely the Golden Ears and Port Mann bridges, haven’t hit projected crossing targets.

Jackson isn’t worried the same scenario would play out on a new George Massey crossing, as she is advocating all bridges in the region adopt a $1 toll.

The George Massey tunnel replacement will include a new 10-lane, clear span bridge and it will replace Westminster Highway, Steveston Highway and Highway 17A interchanges. It’s expected to cost $3.5 billion.