It doesn't make sense to scrap South Delta's current crossing under the Fraser River, says a longtime resident whose father spearheaded its construction.
Asked for his opinion lately by many media outlets after it was announced the George Massey Tunnel, named after his late father, is to be replaced, Doug Massey is concerned more problems will be created than solved if the current crossing is no longer utilized.
"They're entering into what's a very delicate ecosystem on the Fraser River. Why can't they approach it like that when they build these things? If you're going to go ahead and do it, do it right," said Massey, who attended a project open house in Ladner on Saturday.
Port Metro Vancouver is especially interested in getting rid of the existing tunnel, said Massey, who wonders how the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans stands on the issue.
Saying the tunnel presents a barrier to continued growth in the Fraser River terminals, in particular to Fraser Surrey Docks, the port authority applauded the announcement the tunnel would be replaced. Port Metro Vancouver noted the single biggest challenge the tunnel represents to oceangoing vessels is the depth of water required for those vessels to transit the Fraser River.
"Like I said, this is not just a canal for the ships to go up, this is a river, an estuary that you can't replace," said Massey.
One of the display boards at Saturday's open house read that consideration would be given to supporting Port Metro Vancouver's vision to be the most effective and sustainable gateway for customers.
Saying there are a number of good design ideas that involve maintaining the tunnel and the existing corridor, Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington said she's concerned the project is being driven by the port, which means the tunnel will be dismantled.
The chambers of commerce for both Delta and Richmond also welcomed the news the tunnel is to be replaced, saying it's long overdue.
However. Massey said other solutions could be found to alleviate traffic through the crossing, including better transit and removing trucks during rush hour.
"It's worked in other parts in the world, so why not here? It's because the transportation lobby is so strong," he said.
According to the province, the existing tunnel has 10 to 15 years of useful life remaining before major components will need to be completely replaced.
Additionally, while the tunnel remains safe for all users, it does not meet modern seismic standards.
Even though a seismic retrofit program was undertaken in 2006, significant ground stabilization around the tunnel would be needed to meet modern standards, states the Ministry of Transportation.
The ministry also notes, "Upgrading the existing tunnel is certainly an option that will be considered."
Massey questions the government's claim the tunnel is deteriorating, saying the crossing was well built and shouldn't be scrapped simply because it's more than 50 years old.
Following the first phase of consultation, the ministry says it will develop a shortlist of replacement options for consideration and further consultation in 2013.
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