Richmond mayor 'literally breathless' over plans for interchange
The George Massey Tunnel is a major source of congestion, but it was the province's plan for a highway meant to ease the bottleneck that left the mayor of Richmond "breathless."
The BC Liberals are moving forward with a $3.5-billion plan to build a bridge meant to ease congestion that often forms the connector between Delta and Richmond.
The bridge proposal has been well publicized, but Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said he was shocked by the province's plan for the area near the bridge.
"When I saw the highway and the interchange I was literally breathless," Brodie said Wednesday.
The details of the new design were unveiled in recent public meetings, and show three levels of overpasses, 10 lanes of highway and a massive interchange planned for the Steveston Highway area.
In order to create a smaller footprint, the Highway 99 interchange at the Steveston Highway will be stacked about as high as the condos located nearby. The current intersection is a cloverleaf design, and Brodie thought that the replacement would be the same shape.
City staff worries about the increased noise, interrupted views and that the highway will take up agricultural land.
Brodie said he also fears the design will result in more people driving, rather than choosing public transit, which will clog the nearby roads used by Richmond residents. City council plans to take its concerns to the province.
In a statement to CTV News, the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure said it will address the concerns of residents as the project is developed.
Todd Stone said the conceptual design was based on "extensive public and stakeholder consultation," including more than 100 meetings with members of Richmond's city staff.
"The concept reflects suggestions from the City of Richmond, Richmond residents and Richmond businesses," Stone said.
The highway at Steveston will be widened due to dedicated transit and high-occupancy vehicle lanes, and to allow for new access to Rice Mill Road, but the new interchange will take up less space than the existing one.
As for noise complaints, Stone said the interchange is "already a very noisy environment," and that the ministry expects the new interchange to reduce noise. It will also reduce idling traffic and improve safety, the statement said.
Details of the Steveston Interchange and the rest of the George Massey Tunnel replacement project will be completed over the next year.
Brodie is not the first Metro Vancouver mayor to voice concerns over the government's plans for the tunnel's replacement.
Earlier this year, the Metro Vancouver Board released an impact assessment report that outlined environmental concerns. The report also questioned whether the crossing would actually improve congestion in the area.
"History has demonstrated the world over, you can’t reduce congestion by simply building more roads," Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore said at the time.
"This project represents an expansion of car-oriented infrastructure and diverts crucial funds from transportation projects that support the regional growth strategy."
North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto agreed, saying that the massive and costly structure would only move congestion elsewhere, not rid the region of traffic jams.
According to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, construction is scheduled to begin next year and run until 2022.