Metro Vancouver does not support the plan to build a new 10-lane toll bridge to replace the George Massey Tunnel.
However, the regional government is open to work with the province and other stakeholders to find an alternative to ease traffic congestion on Highway 99 and the tunnel.
Options may include a bridge with fewer than 10 lanes, an additional tunnel under the south arm of the Fraser River, or an expansion of the tunnel connecting Delta to the rest of the Lower Mainland.
Metro Vancouver’s position puts the regional government in opposition to the provincial government and Delta Mayor Lois Jackson.
“I guess we have to continue to work with Mayor Jackson to solve this problem in a way that wins for both of us,” City of North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto told the Straight on Wednesday (June 29).
Mussatto was interviewed after he and Metro Vancouver chair and Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore announced the district’s stand on the $3.5-billion infrastructure project.
“I think there can be a solution that is much more acceptable, and avoid having a 10-lane bridge,” Mussatto said.
Metro Vancouver’s concerns cover several issues, including the lack of consideration of alternatives to a 10-lane crossing.
“A 10-lane bridge just induces traffic. It encourages more people to drive,” Mussatto said.
According to the North Vancouver mayor, the regional government wants more public transportation instead.
At the media briefing, Moore said that “something smaller”, whether it’s a bridge or an additional tunnel, is the “way to go”.
“To go from four lanes to 10 lanes, there’s probably something in between there that’s more appropriate,” Moore said.
Moore also said that the planned replacement of the George Massey Tunnel will open up more farmlands and other areas for development. According to him, this will induce people to drive farther.
In a report, Metro Vancouver staff reviewed the potential impacts of the tunnel replacement project.
One of these involves “implications for regional growth management, including land use, transportation, agriculture and human health impacts”.
“The result may be increased pressures for land use conversion, including the conversion of agricultural and industrial land,” the document notes.
The staff report also cites impacts on air quality, Fraser River estuary, Deas Island regional park, and regional utilities.
In a statement, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone noted that a bridge will help thousands who commute along Highway 99 through the George Massey Tunnel.
“Each of those drivers lose an average of 30 minutes a day - over four hours a week - as their vehicles churn out tons of harmful greenhouse emissions, while they idle in long queues,” Stone said.
According to Stone, a new bridge will “remove what is currently the worst traffic bottleneck in
B.C. and eliminate over one million hours of vehicle idling each year - improving air quality in the region and cutting down on the greenhouse emissions churned out by the idling cars”.
Stone pointed out that the project will offer a more direct bus service with 50 kilometres of new dedicated high-occupancy vehicle and bus lanes.