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Chamber & port support new bridge

Delta's business community is pleased a new bridge will be constructed over the south arm of the Fraser River.
Construction of a bridge to replace the George Massey Tunnel is expected to begin in 2017.

Delta's business community is pleased a new bridge will be constructed over the south arm of the Fraser River.

Responding to Premier Christy Clark's announcement last week that a bridge will replace the George Massey Tunnel on the existing Highway 99 corridor, Delta Chamber of Commerce chair Orv Nickel said a bridge appears to provide the greatest advantages of all the crossing options.

"The population of the Lower Mainland requires expanded transportation systems for cars, trucks and public transportation systems," said Nickel. "This new proposed project will be a welcome addition to what currently exists and adds to future plans as the traffic needs demand.

"Any one of the five options would have been an improvement over the crowded tunnel situation currently in place, but the transportation engineers planning this tunnel expansion are the experts on the topic.

"Given all the information that they have at their fingertips, and that the media and the public do not have, certainly puts the planning advantage in their court and the Delta Chamber of Commerce applauds their effort," he said.

Fraser Surrey Docks this week also said it's pleased the tunnel will be replaced, noting the structure, which services over 80,000 vehicles a day, has an estimated 10 to 15 years of life before major components will need to be replaced.

"The construction of a new bridge will greatly improve the overall transportation flow of the region," said Jeff Scott, president and CEO of Fraser Surrey Docks. "It will also enable economic opportunities for Fraser Surrey Docks and other nearby business operators."

Replacement of the tunnel with a bridge will allow for further dredging of the Fraser River to accommodate larger vessels. Dredging of the river has been taking place since the late 1890s and additional dredging would better accommodate today's modern vessels, according to Surrey Fraser Docks.

Saying there's no doubt a new crossing is needed, Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington echoed concerns by Doug Massey, son of the late George Massey, that the existing tunnel will be scrapped. Huntington said it can still be an important transportation link.

"It doesn't have to be replaced and the government knows this. It's awkward for the government to maintain, but it's got 50 years of life left in it. It was built for a 100-year purpose, and when you need transportation infrastructure as badly as this region does, why would you get rid of one unless you're servicing the port (of Metro Vancouver)?" she asked.

"If the port wants it gone that badly that it can convince the province to build a three

or four or five billion dollar bridge, then the port better start paying for it," Huntington said.

The independent MLA said a second round of consultation was supposed to have occurred on the preferred options, but instead one was picked long ago.

Gordon Price, director of the City Program at SFU, believes the future of the region is now in play.

In his latest blog, Price asked if south of the Fraser, and Delta in particular, will be transformed into an industrial port to serve a larger vision: making B.C. one of the world's most significant carbon-transfer points.

Among the points to consider, he noted, "Dramatic new highways and bridges, notably the South Fraser Perimeter Road, spearing into the heart of Delta's farmlands, stimulating development and speculation. Tsawwassen Mills shopping centre is becoming a reality, and there are options on agricultural lands west of Highway 17, anticipating warehousing and intermodal port uses."

He also stated, "The ALR is up for review. So if land in Delta was 'freed' up, the Massey Bridge might serve the same function the original Port Mann did for Surrey in the sixties: extending the suburbs."

On another front, some mayors are balking at the bridge announcement, asking why the government has foregone a referendum for the plan. Mayor Lois Jackson responded to the critics, saying "it's our turn" as far as improvements for Delta.