The province has announced that it has issued a request for qualifications from companies interested in building a new Fraser River crossing.
According to a B.C. government news release, the replacement of the George Massey Tunnel will be arranged through a public-private partnership.
It could cost in the neighbourhood of $3.5 billion.
The consortium that is chosen will be required to design, build, partially finance, operate, maintain, and rehabilitate a new 10-lane bridge over a 30-year term.
The tunnel has only three lanes.
The notification claims that additional lanes on the new structure will "make merging safer for all vehicles and will reduce collisions by an estimated 35%".
There will also be dedicated transit lanes on the bridge, which will be financed through tolls.
In addition, the project includes replacing three interchanges at Westminster Highway, Steveston Highway, and Highway 17A, the latter of which leads to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal and the soon-to-open 1.2-square-million-foot Tsawwassen Mills shopping mall.
The project also involves decommissioning the tunnel, widening 24 kilometres of Highway 99 for transit/HOV lanes, and building pathways for cyclists and pedestrians on the bridge.
Metro Vancouver has been pushing for a federal environmental assessment. On Wednesday (June 29), the regional district is scheduled to release an assessment report highlighting "key areas of concern...including the direct, indirect and cumulative regional impacts" of a new 10-lane bridge.
"The regional growth strategy, Metro 2040: Shaping Our Future, promotes compact transit-oriented development, the efficient use of land, and a transportation network that reduces energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and improves air quality," Metro Vancouver stated in its media-briefing invitation.
The project has also come under fire from environmentalists who worry about the impact of greater urban sprawl on farmland and important ecological areas.
The Port Mann Bridge is the last major toll bridge built in the region. The Transportation Investment Corporation anticipates it will lose $102 million this fiscal year as motorists continue to choose nontolled alternatives.
TransLink owns the other major toll bridge in the region. Its Golden Ears Bridge loses nearly $40 million per year.