The NDP government continues to play politics by prioritizing commuters north of the Fraser while leaving those south of the river idling until a new crossing is built.
That’s what Delta South MLA Ian Paton is saying about the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s announcement this week that improvements will be built to relieve traffic congestion on the highway corridor, north of the George Massey Tunnel.
“Once again, the NDP prove they would rather kick the can further down the road than get moving on replacing the seismically unsafe George Massey Tunnel,” said Paton. “Had the BC Liberal government’s George Massey Bridge replacement project moved forward, which included major upgrades to both the Steveston Highway and Highway 17A interchanges, we would be looking forward to a ribbon cutting ceremony in just over a year from now.”
The improvements on the Richmond side of the tunnel include a new Steveston interchange, additional bus-on-shoulder lanes, a new bus-only connection at Bridgeport Road and upgraded cycling infrastructure, all in advance of a tunnel replacement project.
The corridor improvements are components of the George Massey Crossing Project and will be delivered in advance of the crossing works, the province explained.
A request for qualifications for the Steveston interchange replacement was issued this week with a request for proposals planned for early fall 2021.
Construction on the interchange is planned to begin in 2022 and be completed in 2025.
Tenders for the Highway 99 bus-on-shoulder lane extension and the transit and cycling improvements at Bridgeport Road and Highway 17A will go out this week. Work is expected to begin this fall.
Rob Fleming, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, said the improvements, combined with a new crossing to replace the old tunnel, will improve safety, reliability and connectivity on the Highway 99 corridor on both sides of the Fraser River.
As far as a tunnel replacement, the province is considering two options, one being an eight-lane immersed tunnel, while the other is a bridge with the same number of lanes.
The tunnel project would have an estimated three-year environmental review and require five years of construction.
The potential bridge would be smaller than the previous Liberal government's bridge project.
That project would have a one-to-two year environmental review and require five years for construction.
A business case for a preferred option has been submitted to the transportation ministry and a draft funding request was submitted to the federal government.
Details of what option the province put forward to Ottawa has yet to be made public.
The province notes discussions are ongoing with the federal government on cost-sharing and details will be made public after those talks are completed.
In the meantime, the province has been undertaking a $40 million upgrade project for the 62-year-old tunnel to improve safety.
The current tunnel is to be decommissioned once a new crossing is built.
The Green-backed New Democrat government, after the 2017 provincial election, announced the previous Liberal government’s George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project was cancelled.
It was a new 10-lane bridge project with associated highway works, a project that had gotten underway just prior to the election and was scheduled for completion in 2022.
“The NDP need to stop with the political shenanigans, release the business case, tell us whether they are building a bridge or a tunnel, and get shovels in the ground on a new crossing,” added Paton.