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Mayors want new eight-lane tunnel

By Martin van den Hemel

Published 5:21 PDT, Fri April 26, 2019

Five key Metro Vancouver mayors along with Musqueam Indian Band Chief Wayne Sparrow and Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Bryce Williams are in agreement about how to remedy the congestion at the George Massey Tunnel: build a new eight-lane, deep-bore tunnel.

And they’ve made their position clear to the provincial government, in the hope Victoria will take “immediate action to solve the traffic congestion problem at the George Massey Tunnel.”

In a March 29, 2019 letter to B.C. Premier John Horgan—also signed by Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, Delta Mayor George Harvie, Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart and White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker—the group came to the conclusion that “only tunnel options, including a cost-effective deep bored tunnel if possible, should be considered.”

Brodie shared the letter with The Richmond Sentinel late Friday afternoon.

Asked why the issue has been brought to the forefront now, Brodie explained that new mayors in the region have brought new thoughts. And with the NDP government working for the past 18 months to put their thoughts together, the timing seemed right, he said.

“We want a tunnel, not a bridge,” Brodie said.

The letter was penned following a Feb. 21 meeting between the five key mayors and the First Nations chiefs.

The group came to an agreement on how to address the traffic problems at the crossing of the South Arm of the Fraser.

“With the timelines currently being contemplated by the province, construction on a new crossing may not be completed before 2030—a delay that greatly impacts the lives of tens of thousands of residents who make use of the tunnel each day, and the overall liveability of our region,” the letter says.

Consensus was reached on the following, according to the letter:

• First Nation concerns regarding in-river works and fisheries impacts should be addressed

• the project shouldn’t create additional environmental challenges or reviews which could be potentially costly, lengthy or prohibitive

• concerns raised regarding local impacts at interchanges or access points should be addressed, while also minimizing impacts on agricultural land

• the entire Highway 99 corridor should be evaluated for improvements as part of the crossing project including the existing congestion at the South Surrey interchanges

• the project should address concerns regarding excess capacity, the risk of increasing vehicle kilometres travelled and the potential to worsen congestion at the Oak Street Bridge and Oak Street corridor

• the crossing should be designed to serve the region’s needs until at least the year 2100

• the crossing should include six lanes for regular traffic including goods movement, and two lanes dedicated for rapid transit bus

• at opening, the tunnel should have dedicated facilities for cyclists and pedestrians and include immediate access to enhanced rapid transit capacity, while it also should have the potential for conversion to rail in the future, including consideration for potential high-speed rail

“Our communities are those most directly impacted by tunnel congestion, and we have been successful in finding a solution that we can all support, including achieving consensus on the scale and defining parameters of the crossing,” the letter says. “We believe only tunnel options, including a cost-effective deep bored tunnel if possible, should be considered.”

The letter notes that Transport Canada is currently accepting applications through the National Trade Corridors Fund for projects of this kind.

“We should be taking advantage of this significant funding opportunity for the new crossing,” the letter says.

In the interim, the letter requests that in order to address current congestion issues, the province should work with TransLink to provide additional funding for higher-frequency transit services to encourage people to leave their cars at home.

Asked to define what a deep-bore tunnel is, Brodie said that the mayors aren’t asking for an upgrade and twinning of the current tunnel, but instead are asking for a bored tunnel that goes beneath the bed of the Fraser River.

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