During a public meeting on Monday, Richmond City Council unanimously provided city staff with direction to urge the provincial government to find a solution to the congested and ageing George Massey Tunnel.
A letter will be sent to Premier John Horgan and the Minister of Transportation to formally restart the consultation process with the region’s municipal governments.
In September 2017, the BC NDP provincial government cancelled the $3.5-billion, 10-lane bridge project in favour of re-examining crossing options through an independent review.
Early this year, Horgan stated the findings of the review will be released this fall, with details on the potential crossing improvement options and greater detail regarding the process that led to the previous decision by the BC Liberals to proceed with the bridge.
According to a city report, the provincial government has “advised that any future crossing improvement option would not include a 10-lane bridge.”
Nearly all of City Council, including Mayor Malcolm Brodie, support an upgrade of the existing tunnel coupled with a twinning instead of a new bridge.
Councillor Bill McNulty said “we need action now” on the crossing, and expressed his vision of a twinned tunnel.
Some interim improvements were also suggested by Councillor Kelly Greene, who wanted the tunnel route’s current deficiencies addressed, such as the poor lighting and the inaccessibility for truck traffic.
“I for one am glad we have a tunnel when we had all the ice bombs falling on all other bridges and the Lower Mainland shut down,” added Greene.
Councillor Harold Steves alleged the main motivations for a new bridge by the previous provincial government was to allow larger ships to cross through the Fraser River channel, whereas the shallow bed created by the existing tunnel does not permit these ship movements.
He also said the provincial government should review previous Ministry of Transportation studies performed in the 1980s and early-1990s that called for a rail rapid transit extension to Delta and White Rock.
“We need to fight for LRT, and I think that’s the solution,” said Steves.
The only councillor that has consistently voiced her support for a new bridge between terms is Alexa Loo.
“Unfortunately, we won’t have a solution in place by 2023. I supported a bridge for the good of the residents, businesses, and the workers in Richmond,” said Loo. “It was also supported by our first responders, they preferred a bridge. There are 80,000 commuters sitting in that traffic every day, and 60% of that traffic diverts to Richmond.”
Across the river, the City of Delta has been staunchly in support of a new 10-lane bridge as the only solution to the crossing. The municipal government says the lowest contractor bid that was submitted to the ministry before the change of provincial government was $2.6 billion — about $900 million less than the original cost estimate by ministry planners.
Like the cancelled Surrey Newton-Guildford LRT project, some investments were already made on the bridge replacement project. About $66 million was spent on preliminary planning and pre-construction work, and another $25 million had been spent by BC Hydro on relocating transmission power lines.
Major construction on the tolled bridge was originally scheduled to begin in early-2018 for an opening in 2023.
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