It's certainly good news for motorists waiting to get through the usual rush hour traffic jam in the George Massey Tunnel, but a new crossing will still be years away.
Premier Christy Clark announced on Friday new road projects that would be undertaken, including starting "the process" to replace the 53-year-old tunnel.
"We are taking some very important steps to drive the BC Jobs Plan forward," Clark told delegates to the annual meeting of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities in Victoria.
"By planning to replace the George Massey Tunnel and maintaining our commitment to complete four-laning of the Trans-Canada, we are supporting the communities that depend on them and growing our economy."
Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Mary Polak, noting their goal is to also see the entire Trans-Canada Highway four-laned from Kamloops to Alberta, said B.C. will work with the federal government to seek matching funds to improve the corridor, which connects the Pacific Gateway with the rest of Canada.
Polak said the government heard the concerns from the communities south of the Fraser River about congestion through the tunnel and that her ministry will engage these in the initial discussions on what a replacement might look like.
Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington said Clark's announcement of a new Fraser River crossing is welcome news for many South Delta drivers frustrated with congestion.
"Congestion is increasing year after year as the population booms east of Delta, and we get caught in the middle," said Huntington. "Gridlock spread from the Alex Fraser Bridge means our tunnel has become a parking lot."
Saying she hopes the announcement is not simply an election promise, Huntington noted the Corporation of Delta has put considerable resources into addressing the problem, which she said is caused in large part by commuters from outside Delta.
"Addressing the hazardous level of congestion is a priority for all of us in South Delta and we all share the frustration of watching money and land lost to SFPR for the Gateway program - while the tunnel problem goes on and on."
Huntington added she also hopes a new crossing will not eat up valuable farmland or cause further congestion for Delta during the construction phase.
Elated Delta's concerns have been heard and the outdated tunnel will finally be replaced, Mayor Lois Jackson, who's currently out of the country, told the Optimist she'd also like more details on the timeline.
As far as the prospect of Deltans having to pay a toll to use the new crossing, unless they wanted to drive to what might be the closest free alternative at the Alex Fraser Bridge, Jackson said she's certain the project will involve a user-pay formula.
However, a study needs to be undertaken on what's fair, including the idea of region-wide tolling that's been discussed by some but might not be palatable for the public.
"I certainly don't see the tolls that are on the Golden Ears (bridge) as something that's reasonable. These tolls would have to be in reach of everybody and everybody would have to use it... It's always nice to have a free alternative and, theoretically, we should have transit as an option," she added.
Jackson said there's no doubt congestion will only get heavier with the planned Terminal 2 port expansion, development at the Tsawwassen First Nation as well as growth south of the Fraser.
"It is a complex series of traffic generators that face us. Whether it's the port or B.C. Ferries, whether it's the (Tsawwassen) First Nation, as well as Delta people trying to get through the tunnel and those from Tilbury, and, of course, all the additional traffic from White Rock, Surrey and points east," she said.
Earlier this year, Delta commissioned an economic study of traffic congestion at the George Massey Tunnel in a bid to persuade the government of the need for a new north-south crossing.
Coun. Scott Hamilton, who's currently the acting mayor while Jackson is away, said, "Reducing congestion and improving transportation connections will help enhance the quality of life Delta residents enjoy, and we look forward to being a key contributor as consultations on this much-needed improvement move forward."
New Democrats were quick to slam the premier's announcement, saying it's nothing more than part of an unfunded wish list.
Originally called the Deas Island Tunnel, the opening of the crossing is the most significant event in South Delta's history, opening the door to development and a huge population boom.
For many years, though, it's been a source of frustration for local commuters.
Shortly after the tunnel's grand opening in May 1959, Lassen Nielsen, head of the firm that designed the structure and supervised its construction, predicted the tunnel would be too small to handle traffic in the near future.
Today, the George Massey Tunnel, which had been tolled until 1964, has over 95,000 cars and trucks using it daily. The opening of the South Fraser Perimeter Road isn't anticipated to result in a major reduction in traffic.