After years of debate, the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project has moved a step closer to reality.
The province last week announced that two contracts for preliminary construction work are going out to tender.
The contracts are for site preparation in order to improve ground conditions for future lane widening.
The ministry will award one contract for work in Delta and one for work in Richmond.
Work will begin only after the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure receives the project's environmental assessment and Agricultural Land Commission certificates.
Both contracts will operate under an environmental management plan to ensure work is in line with the project's obligations, the ministry said.
Last week project director Geoff Freer made a presentation to Delta council to provide an update as well as reiterate many of the positives of the 10-lane bridge, which also includes an extensive series of road projects on both sides of the river.
"If we don't build a new bridge or build a new crossing, things will certainly get a lot worse. So, with or without the project, traffic is going to increase and we will see continued congestion that will continue to get worse," said Freer. WORK: see Page 3 He also explained how other options, including twinning the existing tunnel, aren't feasible.
Freer noted the project is still undergoing an environmental assessment and also has an application with the Agricultural Land Commission. Approvals are expected early this year.
Advanced works would begin shortly thereafter with a contractor for the major works selected by this summer.
Construction is to be completed in 2022.
The province notes the new bridge and associated highway improvements, including dedicated transit lanes, will cut some commute times in half and also improve travel-time reliability for the 10,000 transit passengers and more than 80,000 vehicles that use the tunnel each day.
The bridge, which has an estimated $3.5-billion price tag, will be tolled. That rate has yet to be determined but Mayor Lois Jackson is pushing for a regional "buck a bridge" price.