The George Massey tunnel is one of the highest-congestion crossings in B.C. (Black Press files)

10-lane George Massey bridge too big, B.C. study says

Consultants say replacement tunnel cost similar to new bridge

The B.C. government should design a more modest replacement for the George Massey tunnel, to reduce but not eliminate congestion on the Fraser River crossing, a technical study concludes.

The B.C. NDP government last year cancelled design work on a planned 10-lane toll bridge to connect Richmond to Delta on Highway 99, longer than the Port Mann crossing for Highway 1, and commissioned the study to lay out options. They include a replacement tunnel under the river as well as smaller bridge options, but does not recommend one over the other as a replacement.

Upgrades to the existing Massey tunnel to improve winter conditions and lighting will be done while local communities are consulted further, Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said in releasing the study Monday.

Trevena said she understands the frustration of people stuck in traffic each day at what has been described as the worst traffic bottleneck in the province, but the work to provide a partial or total replacement for the tunnel will take several years.

The goal is to have a business case for a new six- or eight-lane bridge or a new tunnel by the fall of 2020, Trevena said.

We’re working as fast as possible to make sure we get this right,” Trevena said.

Westmar Advisors, the consultants, found that a new tunnel could be done at similar cost to a bridge, and tunnels have continued to be used in Hong Kong and other areas around the world where earthquake risk is a concern. A new tunnel could accommodate up to eight lanes, and a separate tunnel for cyclists and pedestrians is an option.

The consultants noted that the original plan called for a toll-financed 10-lane bridge with extensive on-ramps that would prevent congestion at the Massey crossing at all hours of the day until 2045. An eight-lane bridge would still experience traffic slowdowns at peak times.

“A reduced project scope would better align with regional transportation and community planning goals, and would likely result in better project acceptance,” the consultants conclude.

The consultants considered the impact of tolls on the Port Mann crossing, estimating that if a new bridge was tolled, about 10,000 crossings per day would be diverted to the Alex Fraser bridge as drivers sought to avoid the tolls.


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