The provincial government has released the business case for a $3.5-billion replacement for the George Massey Tunnel.
The 56-year-old tunnel will be replaced with a 10-lane, three-kilometre bridge, consisting of four general travel lanes and an HOV lane in either direction.
Transportation Minister Todd Stone predicts it will save rush-hour commuters 30 minutes a day.
Stone says like the Port Mann and possibly a new Patullo Bridge, this span will also be tolled. But how much?
“We do anticipate that the toll rate will be comparable to the toll rates at the Port Mann Bridge.”
Vancouver, Richmond mayors not happy
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson says predicts it will mean major congestion in his city.
“It is a challenge to absorb the kind of car traffic that comes in on these freeways. That is why the region has been more focused on getting transit built. Getting transit investment that takes cars off the road.”
He says mayors in the region are still determined to implement their 10-year plan despite the plebiscite failure.
Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie says although traffic flowing in and out of Richmond will be quicker, build-up from the Oak Street bridge will be the same.
“To not fix that kind of congestion with some kind of a strategy, I think is shortsighted.”
The Alex Fraser bridge is expected to see traffic go up 15 per cent from drivers avoiding the new bridge tolls.
To lessen the burden, Brodie says local mayors want a regional tolling policy on all bridges.
“That system will work, and it’s a way to share the pain, financially, to share it around the region and do it fairly and modestly without killing anybody.”
Premier Christy Clark has said she will not do that.
Lower Mainland truckers are expressing concern that the new bridge set to replace the Massey Tunnel will be tolled.
President of the BC Trucking Association, Louise Yako, says it’s common knowledge drivers will attempt to avoid tolled bridges, creating more congestion elsewhere.
“All road users tend to avoid tolled infrastructure and that should be a concern for all of us, because what that means is additional congestion on roads where there really shouldn’t be.”
The $3.5 billion replacement project is being billed as a solution to unclog BC’s worst bottleneck, but Yako says it will just move the problem somewhere else.
“We are becoming increasingly concerned about the fact that it appears as though we’re headed for four crossings across the South arm of the Fraser being tolled with only one free option.”
Politicians from Delta say it’s a long time coming
Delta Mayor Lois Jackson and area MLA Scott Hamilton joined Stone for the announcement with one point in mind: Doing nothing will mean even more traffic headaches for people who use the tunnel.
The population of Delta, Richmond, Surrey and White Rock is expected to increase by 51 per cent in 25 years.
Public open houses begin next month and a website has been set up for people to provide feedback until Jan. 28.
The final scope and cost estimate will then be made before the project goes to an environmental review.
If all goes well, construction is to start in 2017 and be completed by 2022.