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Premier confident new tunnel for Massey crossing better than bridge

Last Updated Oct 3, 2019 at 6:57 pm PDT

FILE - Massey Tunnel traffic backed up on May 6, 2015 (NEWS 1130 file photo)

TransLink Mayors' Council endorsed a plan for an eight-lane tunnel Wednesday

Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Ken Baird voted against this option, citing environmental concerns

Premier John Horgan is confident environmental concerns will be addressed and stands by decision to scrap bridge plans

SEATTLE (NEWS 1130) — Premier John Horgan is defending plans to replace the George Massey Tunnel with a new immersed crossing instead of a bridge.

He says local mayors have now been properly consulted and concerns about the tunnel’s impact on surrounding wildlife in the Fraser River are being addressed.

“We want to make sure that we have the least impact on our environment, specifically on our salmon, and I also understand we have sturgeon populations that are at risk. The Fraser [River is] fundamental to who we are as British Columbians and we need to make sure we get it right.”

Horgan is responding to concerns raised by Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Ken Baird now that a Metro Vancouver task force has endorsed plans for a new eight-lane tunnel.

“A bridge would have a significant impact on the environment, as well. The environmental assessment process will address some of the issues Tsawwassen First Nations have raised and maybe highlight other challenges that have not yet been identified.”

RELATED: Metro Vancouver mayors recommending eight lane tunnel to replace Massey Tunnel

Baird is the only member of the task force who believes a bridge would be less harmful than a tunnel, but Horgan is confident construction can be completed without significantly disrupting wildlife in the area.

“I don’t want to diminish the Chief’s concerns at all, but I do think we need to do a robust assessment and the Fraser River is not just a habitat for fish. It’s also a corridor for economic development and has been for a century and a half and also by indigenous people well before European expansion.”

Horgan is also standing by his government’s 2017 cancellation of a ten-lane bridge which was already under construction and had a price tag of less than $3 billion.

“What I’m excited about is that the region has come to a conclusion that’s near unanimous, that the congestion point at the Massey crossing needs to be addressed, and there’s a cost-effective way to do that that has buy-in from communities right across the region. That wasn’t the case with the previous plan.”

He says this new plan removes the need for tolls to help fund the project, meaning federal funding can be pursued and accessed.

Cost estimates have not been finalized yet.

Meanwhile, the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association has released a music video mocking the NDP government for further delaying much-needed traffic congestion relief along the often-gridlocked Highway 99 corridor linking Richmond with Delta.

“Every day, the Massey’s three rush hour lanes are jammed, causing the biggest backup in B.C., and one of the worst in Canada,” said ICBA’S Jordan Bateman.”The mayors and John Horgan’s solution is to replace those three jammed lanes with exactly the same number of lanes. It’s ludicrous to spend billions on something that will last half a century and not substantially increase capacity or give relief to drivers.”

The parody was released hours after the Metro Vancouver task force endorsed plans for a new tunnel which hasn’t been costed out yet.