Provincial official says new 10-lane bridge will result in net increase in agricultural land

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      Critics of the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project say it will inevitably lead to a loss of farmland.

      One of the most prominent, Richmond councillor Harold Steves, has claimed that the province's plan for a 10-lane bridge will result in farming areas disappearing on both sides of the Fraser River.

      However, the official in charge of the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project says this isn't true.

      In an interview this morning on CBC Radio's Early Edition program, Geoff Freer maintained that a new 10-lane bridge would result in a "net increase in agricultural land".

      The province has made a similar claim on the project's website.

      "A new bridge will have improved safety and security for traffic, pedestrians and cyclists, fewer impacts on agricultural land, fewer disturbances on the Fraser River, fewer construction risks and greater cost and schedule certainty," the website states.

      Steves and Richmond's mayor, Malcolm Brodie, have also declared that the proposed bridge would create huge traffic backlogs on Highway 99 as northbound vehicles face a bottleneck at the Oak Street Bridge. 

      However, the new bridge will make it easier for Richmond and Vancouver shoppers to drive to the new 1.2-million square-foot Tsawwassen Mills shopping mall, which is expected to open next year.

      Freer also told CBC Radio that "the first shovel" will go in the ground in 2017.

      In the meantime, the public has until February 15 to submit online feedback to the province.

      There are also two open houses scheduled next week.

      The first is on Tuesday (January 26) from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Sandman Signature Hotel Vancouver Airport (10251 St. Edwards Drive) in Richmond.

      The second is on Wednesday (January 27) from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Delta Town & Country Inn (6005 Highway 17A) in Delta.