No solutions for tunnel replacement until 2020

Province will consult with municipalities and First Nations and present a business case to replace the George Massey Tunnel in about two years.

Solutions to congestion in Richmond at the George Massey Tunnel won’t be solved any time soon – the province said its next steps will be to consult with municipalities and First Nations and present a business case on three possible solutions in the fall of 2020.

The proposed solutions are an eight-lane bridge, a six-lane bridge or an eight-lane tunnel, which would have fewer negative impacts and be less expensive than a bridge, according to the ministry’s press release.

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While he’s not happy about the timeline on the George Massey Tunnel replacement, Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said the previous government didn’t listen to their concerns when city staff meet about a proposed 10-lane bridge.

Some of the concerns that the city of Richmond brought up with the previous provincial government were the loss of farmland, the number of lanes, a “Los Angeles-style freeway” in south Richmond with “unbelievably massive and complicated” on and off ramps onto Steveston Highway, and environmental concerns for the river, Brodie said. In addition, a large part of a park planned on the former Fantasy Gardens lands would have been appropriated for the project.

“Whatever was accomplished was at great cost and a lot was still unaddressed,” Brodie said.

When Richmond staff brought up these concerns, it was “pointless,” Brodie said.

“They were not prepared to look at any alternatives ever,” he said, adding that after meetings with staff, the province never gave anything in writing.

Brodie called the three options presented on Monday “realistic.”

“I’m very pleased they’re going to take a far harder look at the various options and go from there,” he said.

Brodie said he doesn’t like the long timeline presented by the government today, but he doesn’t see an alternative.

“When you’re building for the next generation, you need to get it done right,” he said.

Richmond city council was pressing the province to upgrade the existing tunnel and then twin it – this was one of the options that the technical review, done by Stan Cowdell of Westmar Advisors Inc., put forward as well.

The Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, Claire Trevena, held a news conference Monday morning on the tunnel replacement, blaming the previous government for not consulting with local communities and “without fully considering feasible alternatives or local opinions on the best path forward.”

The previous BC Liberal government planned to replace the tunnel with a 10-lane bridge, but when the BC NDP government took power last year, they scrapped the plan.

"The 10-lane Massey bridge project was pushed ahead without the input of communities," Trevena said in a statement released this morning. "The technical review of the project has confirmed this was the wrong project for the region. We need a better solution for this crossing to get people out of traffic and home with their families."

Cowdell’s technical review concluded that the 10-lane bridge proposal didn’t address “community alignment, liveability and cost.”

Trevena said after the business case is presented in fall 2020, the province will work “aggressively” to get shovels in the ground on the solution that they decide on. Other improvements the province intends to look at are expanding the existing shoulder bus lanes and improving the roads on either side of the bridge.

Richmond-Queensborough MLA Jas Johal pointed out that the previous government did technical reports, held meetings with Richmond and Delta and did 14,000 pages of consultation. He said if the project had started, it would probably be one-quarter the way done now.

“We have to have a solution and get on with this,” Johal said. “The public is at the point they don’t want to hear about politicians doing more studies and consultations.”

He said he’s concerned that it will take seven to 10 years to complete the project, something that is a “huge detriment to the viability and success of businesses in Richmond.”

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