Metro Vancouver not supporting Massey Tunnel replacement
Published Wednesday, June 29, 2016 11:41AM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 29, 2016 6:32PM PDT
The Metro Vancouver Board is pushing back against the 10-lane toll bridge proposed to replace the aging George Massey Tunnel.
Officials released an impact assessment report on the planned $3.5 billion bridge on Wednesday, outlining several environmental concerns and questioning whether the crossing would effectively address congestion issues in the region.
“History has demonstrated the world over, you can’t reduce congestion by simply building more roads,” Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore said in a statement.
“This project represents an expansion of car-oriented infrastructure and diverts crucial funds from transportation projects that support the regional growth strategy.”
Moore acknowledged congestion through the four-lane tunnel needs to be addressed, but said the need for a 10-lane bridge hasn’t been demonstrated.
According to the board, the government should be putting more focus on sustainable transportation options such as public transit and cycling.
Building the massive and costly crossing would “simply shift congestion elsewhere, further exacerbating the issue of single-occupancy vehicles,” North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto said.
The Metro Vancouver Board also accused the provincial government of failing to conduct meaningful public consultations or sufficiently consider alternatives before moving forward with the project.
According to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, construction is scheduled to begin next year and run until 2022.
The impact assessment report also cites a number of environmental issues with the bridge, including ecological disruption to salmon and bird habitats in the Fraser River estuary and recreational and ecological disruption on Deas Island Regional Park.
It raised further concerns that impacts to climate change and air quality haven’t been properly taken into consideration during the planning process.
The project is already being subjected to a provincial environmental review, but the board urged the Ministry of Environment to order a federal assessment as well.
Not all Metro Vancouver officials agree with the report, however. Delta Mayor Lois Jackson is furious with the board for opposing a project she believes would benefit drivers crossing the Fraser.
“It’s an absolute crime what’s going on right now and I’ve never been so disappointed in an elected group of people,” Jackson said.
“All you have to do is try to use this tunnel in the morning.”
Transportation Minister Todd Stone has said the Massey Tunnel replacement will improve safety, reduce greenhouse gas emissions from unnecessary idling, and cut down motorists’ commute by up to 30 minutes a day.
As planned, the bridge has one lane dedicated to transit and HOV in each direction.