The first phase of consultation for the provincial government's George Massey Tunnel replacement project has wrapped up.
Called Understanding the Need, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure held five open houses - including events on Dec. 4 and 11 in Richmond - across the region during the first phase of public input.
More than 1,000 people participated in the initial consultation and the ministry will be summarizing the information received for posting to the project's website in early 2013.
The supporting documents on the tunnel replacement website show fixing the Massey isn't just about saving time for Richmond residents, but about saving lives. A 2009 Ministry of Transportation study of the Highway 99 corridor shows high collision rates on the Richmond side of the tunnel. The number of collisions per million vehicle kilometres ranges from 16.1 to 60 going north and south of the Massey on the Richmond side. Anything above 16 is considered "critical" and the provincial average is just 0.9.
In September, Premier Christy Clark announced several road projects, including starting the process to replace the 53-year-old underwater crossing.
At the first open house, project director Geoff Freer said the next phase to start early in 2013 will focus more closely on evaluating crossing options. The possibilities that have been mentioned, so far, range from expanding the existing tunnel to a new bridge.
Freer noted a new crossing is about a decade away, but planning needs to start now.
Several people at the open house made it clear they'd like to see the existing tunnel continue to be utilized.
A ministry report notes that despite significant population growth in municipalities south of the Fraser River, as well as employment growth in Richmond and Surrey over the past 10 years, average daily volumes through the tunnel have not grown substantially.
For more information about tunnel replacement, the project's website is www.engage.gov. bc.ca/masseytunnel/consultation.