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Clark aims to replace tunnel

Brodie welcomes plan but wants more cash put into TransLink

Mayor Malcolm Brodie welcomes the premiers plan to replace the aged and gridlocked George Massey tunnel, however, the job of getting people out of cars and onto transit should be the provinces first priority.

If the government wants to do something to address the issue now they would be announcing additional sustainable funding for TransLink to provide buses, Brodie said.

In response to Premier Christy Clarks announcement Friday, Metro Vancouver mayors said the province has to work immediately on reducing the number of cars that continue to choke pressure points on the highway and on the tunnels on and off ramps.

Both Brodie and Langley Mayor Peter Fassbender said the province should be looking at road pricing charging drivers a fee for the distance travelled to generate money for transit and get people out of their cars. Brodie noted a new tunnel or bridge is going to cost at least as much as the new $3.3-billion Port Mann, and will likely be tolled, considering the province has done so with both the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges.

TransLink has had to post-pone several transportation projects, arguing it doesnt have the money.

Clark said replacing the tunnel would help ease one of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the province, adding that the project, which would take at least 10 years to plan and design, would help accommodate another 300,000 people in the region by 2040.

Talk to anyone who drives through the George Massey Tunnel on their daily commute and theyll tell you its a huge headache, Clark said at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, adding a new crossing would also relieve an economic bottleneck for Port Metro Vancouver.

Clark said she plans to work with Richmond and Delta may-ors on a replacement crossing, which could be either another tunnel or a bridge. Its still way too early, she added, to say if it would be tolled.

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson said she was delighted with the announcement Friday.

(The provincial government) certainly heard me and heard what the community has to say, she said in a phone interview from London, England.

Delta has long lobbied for improvements or a replacement for the 53-year-old tunnel, predicting the Deltaport expansion will result in another 1,700 daily truck trips through the tunnel within five years.

Jackson has also warned the situation will be further com-pounded as the Tsawwassen First Nation pursues plans for a major commercial centre, and more drivers and ferry traffic divert to the tunnel to avoid paying tolls on the Golden Ears and new Port Mann bridges.

About 82,000 drivers use the tunnel daily on their commute to and from downtown Vancouver.

A final draft report on the economic impacts to Delta, conducted by Steer Davies Gleave for the corporation, suggests the tunnel is already operating at capacity during peak periods, and estimates the cost of congestion on the tunnel would rise to between $74 million and $173 million by 2041, from $27 million to $66 million in 2008.

The report also notes the tunnel is one of the worst areas for accidents on Highway 99. With no hard shoulders for stalled or disabled vehicles to move to, collisions or incidents can have a significant effect on tailbacks and congestion.

The draft report follows a 400-page Canadian Environmental Assessment Act screening report earlier this year for Port Metro Vancouvers Deltaport Terminal, Road and Rail Improvement Project.

That report said the port expansion project could result in an additional 1,300 truck trips per day, for a total of 4,700 trucks into and out of the port, once the terminal reaches capacity in 2017.

A Delta staff report said of those trips, about 35 per cent or another 450 trucks would use the tunnel, bringing to 1,700 the daily total of two-way truck trips using the crossing.

Jackson wouldnt say whether she would prefer a bridge or a tunnel as a replacement, but added: I dont happen to be an engineer but tunnels dont seem to be in vogue right now, she said. Well have to see what the engineers say.

Metro Vancouver mayors have been in negotiations with the province on finding sustainable funding options, but were frustrated after the province rejected two of their proposals: using the carbon tax revenue for transit, and instituting a vehicle levy. Mayors can now use only gas taxes, fares and property taxes to raise money for transit.

NDP MLA Bruce Ralston argued the Liberal announcement is so far in the future that it only amounts to a declaration of intention.

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