The provincial government recently unveiled their plan to replace the 62-year-old George Massey Tunnel on Highway 99 connecting Delta and Richmond.
It is expected to open in 2030 and will cost an estimated $4.15 billion. Two of the eight lanes will be dedicated rapid-bus lanes, and the replacement will include separate roadways for cyclists and pedestrians.
Initially, a 10-lane bridge was proposed in the 2013 election campaign by the B.C. Liberal Party, but the plan was cancelled when the New Democratic Party was elected in 2017.
Last December, the B.C. government received a proposal showing two options for replacing the crossing, such as an eight-lane bridge or an eight-lane tunnel. According to CTV News, the Ministry of Transportation at the time said it had consulted with the regional mayors’ task force, Indigenous communities, TransLink, and local municipalities to help develop and consider options for the replacement crossway.
The bridge idea was scrapped due to price, environmental impact, and better protection from inclement weather. The eight-lane bridge had an estimated cost of $4.22 billion, around $70 million more than the tunnel. However, it would have been completed two years earlier, with construction beginning in 2024 and finishing in 2028. Whereas, the tunnel limits any new noise and lighting and has fewer impacts on agricultural land in the area.
With the new tunnel plan for construction in the next five years and many politicians in favour, some still say the bridge would be a better development for the Lower Mainland.
Delta mayor George Harvie said he is pleased about the new George Massey tunnel replacement, and it “will deliver significant benefits for Delta residents and the entire region by addressing the traffic congestion along the crucial Highway 99 corridor.” On the other hand, Delta South MLA Ian Paton disagrees with the new tunnel construction.
“It’s taken four years of doing nothing about the George Massey Tunnel, and yet today, they’re trying to take some victory lap for something that may never, ever get an environmental approval,” Paton said to the Vancouver Sun.
In order for the project to be approved, it requires a new environmental review, which is expected to take three and a half years.
Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Ken Baird said his community welcomes the decision, and replacing the old tunnel will accommodate current and future growth in their part of the Lower Mainland. Baird added that the community is pleased the province has committed to addressing their concerns about the environmental impacts on the Fraser River and fisheries.
Although the replacement tunnel will still connect Delta and Richmond, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade Anita Huberman said the tunnel would not meet the needs of Surrey by 2030.
“Surrey is still growing by 1,200-1,400 people a month, and with another 1.3 million people expected to arrive by 2030 in the Metro Vancouver region […] the eight-lane tunnel, which is really only an additional two lanes […] does not meet Surrey’s needs to move people and move goods.”
She said the bridge “was expected to have been almost ready by now. It is unfortunate that we are back at square one.”
The next step for the replacement tunnel is to initiate the environmental assessment process. This includes ongoing communication with 12 Indigenous communities throughout the Lower Mainland and preparing for procurement.
To stay updated with the project, regular updates can be found here.