Metro Vancouver’s board endorsed on Friday a proposed eight-lane immersed-tube tunnel to replace the aging one, but added on nine conditions including potential future light rail.
The nine conditions come from a letter written by Metro Vancouver mayors and two First Nations’ chiefs in March, addressed to B.C. Premier John Horgan.
Richmond Coun. Harold Steves asked the board to highlight the need for light rail in its endorsement of the tunnel, pointing out the mayors’ letter was strongly in favour of light rail transit.
“And that’s the main issue. Are we going to have future LRT or not?” he said.
Other conditions include addressing First Nations’ concerns about the river and the impact to fisheries as well as Richmond, Delta and Vancouver’s concerns about potential traffic and land use impacts - such as to the Oak Street Bridge and agricultural land. Another condition is that the replacement be completed by 2026-2027.
Delta Mayor George Harvie asked the board to send the letter to the province along with its endorsement.
“I feel it’s very important that the contents of this letter be included in a letter to the premier with regards to what this board would ask them to consider,” said Harvie.
“I’d like to see this sent over as soon as possible, and let the premier get to work on fixing the worst traffic congestion we have in the region at this time.”
The board’s endorsement follows last month’s recommendation of an eight-lane immersed-tube tunnel by a task force made up of Metro Vancouver mayors last month. Two of the lanes will be dedicated to transit.
Only Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Ken Baird voted against the Oct. 4 motion, citing environmental concerns.
An immersed-tube tunnel is composed of segments that are constructed elsewhere before being floated to the tunnel site, then sunk into place and linked together.
This option would have the large short-term environmental impacts, with excavation on both the Richmond and Delta sides of the Fraser River during construction, but lower long-term impacts.
The new tunnel will need to undergo an environmental assessment, which would take three years. After that, construction would take five years.
It’s been a long road to replace the tunnel, which opened in 1959. In 2017, the provincial NDP government scrapped the previous B.C. Liberal government’s planned 10-lane bridge following an independent report.
The board will now recommend the option to the province. The project will then go to public consultation.