As long as it's not tolled...
Christy Clark announces plans to replace George Massey Tunnel
Too early to decide between bridge or new tunnel, premier says
METRO VANCOUVER - B.C.'s premier has announced plans to replace the aged and gridlocked George Massey tunnel, saying it would help ease one of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the province.
Premier Christy Clark said 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 they'll tell you it's a huge headache," Clark said at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention Friday, adding a new crossing would also relieve an "economic bottleneck" for Port Metro Vancouver.
"We have to make sure we as a provincial government are investing in the necessary infrastructure as part of the Pacific Gateway."
Clark said she plans to work with Delta and Richmond mayors on a replacement crossing, which could be either another tunnel or a bridge. It's 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 compounded 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, further compounding the unreliability of travel time.
The draft report follows a 400-page Canadian Environmental Assessment Act screening report earlier this year for Port Metro Vancouver's 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 wouldn't say whether she would prefer a bridge or a tunnel as a replacement, but added: "I don't happen to be an engineer but tunnels don't seem to be in vogue right now," she said. "We'll have to see what the engineers say."
Meanwhile, other Metro Vancouver mayors say while they welcome the replacement of the George Massey tunnel, the province should first tackle the root of the gridlock issue: getting people out of their cars and onto transit.
Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said that while he would like to start planning for the new crossing, the province has to work immediately on reducing the number of cars that continue to choke pressure points on the highway and on the tunnel's on and off ramps.
"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. "What we need is a solution right now and the solution is to get more buses."
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.
"It gives you an idea of the magnitude of the issue," he said.
TransLink has had to postpone several transportation projects, arguing it doesn't have the money.
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."
While there at it highway 91 needs to become at least 3, at best 4 lanes..... its a joke that it is 2 lanes going onto/off the Alex Fraser bridge.. f is it ever annoying in the morning.
Edited by key2thecup, 02 October 2012 - 08:53 PM.