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Work on Massey Tunnel replacement accelerates, meetings to begin early January

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

Commuters will know soon whether a new tunnel or bridge will replace Massey Tunnel

The business case outlining the two options was received by B.C.'s minister of transportation and infrastructure

Richmond and Delta mayors hope a final decision will be made next month

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Those who commute through the Massey Tunnel between Richmond and Delta could learn within weeks whether an eight-lane replacement bridge or a new eight-lane tunnel are in their future.

The business case outlining the two options was received by B.C.’s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Rob Fleming Thursday, and the minister will start meeting with the various partners and stakeholders early into the new year.

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Both Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie and Delta Mayor George Harvey are hoping a final decision will be made next month.

Once the decision is made, the public will get to see the details of the business case, including initial cost estimates.

“I’m optimistic that the answer will be that we’re going to have a tunnel, and I’m optimistic that we are going to get that answer next month,” says Brodie.

“I’m really agnostic to whether it’s a bridge or it’s a tunnel,” says Harvey. “My concern is an aging tunnel which is very vulnerable to seismic situations, which is well documented, and if we ever lose that crossing it’ll be 10 years of pure hell for anyone living around that grid.”

Transportation minister optimistic feds will contribute funds

While he can’t commit to a decision by next month, Fleming says the government and stakeholders will “move as quickly as we can.”

“The business case is not a thin document, there’s a lot of details there. It’s exactly the kind of technical expertise we were looking for,” he adds.

As they move into talks, Fleming is hopeful the federal government will partner with the province and provide funding, despite the immense financial difficulties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“On the debt side, it still is a key advantage that interest rates have never been this low. It’s a good time to finance and accelerate projects,” he says.

Fleming’s pitch is that by filling infrastructure gaps, governments across Canada can start to restore economic activity, boost supply chains, and create jobs during the COVID-19 recovery period.

Plus, he says, Highway 99 is a key trade corridor connecting Deltaport to the rest of the country.

Fleming also confirms that a big request from Delta Mayor George Harvey — that rapid public transit options be built into the replacement — is a key component of both options.

“No matter what they build, if it doesn’t have a robust rapid bus type of transit system along Highway 99, it’s not going to work, and its legacy will be that they replaced congestion with more congestion,” says Harvey.