No money is being put aside for a replacement for the George Massey Tunnel, a project which seems to have a spiraling price tag.
The provincial government’s budget this week has money dedicated for the Pattullo Bridge replacement as well as a transportation and development study for the Fraser Valley, as well as other projects such as the already committed Highway 91/17 and Deltaport Way Upgrade Project in Delta.
Money has also been dedicated for funding for already committed safety improvements to the existing tunnel and highway corridor, as well as the planning and design of the future tunnel replacement.
In total, the province says $7.4 billion is going to priority transportation projects, including the Pattullo Bridge replacement, the Broadway Subway, four-laning on Highway 1 through Kicking Horse Canyon and improvements to highway corridors in Delta, Langley and along the southern coast of Vancouver Island.
As far as a funding commitment for a tunnel replacement, it will have to wait until after the government completes its business case later this year on a preferred replacement option.
Metro Vancouver Mayors recommend an eight-lane immersed tunnel option, which would include dedicated transit lanes, while the province has also put forward the option of an eight-lane long-span bridge, both options now being presented in a consultation process.
A consultant’s report notes the estimated total project cost of the eight-lane immersed tunnel for now is between $4 and $5 billion, while the estimated project cost of the eight-lane bridge is between $3.5 and $4.5 billion.
The go-ahead to initiate the environmental review for either option would happen in 2021
The report notes cost estimates were undertaken in several phases and, after the concept designs were complete, more detailed total project cost estimates for the eight-lane immersed tube and the eight-lane bridge were made last fall.
More detailed cost estimates are now being developed to support business case development this year.
The tunnel project would have an estimated three-year environmental review and require five years of construction.
The bridge project would have a one-to-two year environmental review and also require five years for construction.
Scheduled to have been completed in 2022 before the newly elected Green-backed New Democrat government suspended and ultimately killed the project, the previous Liberal government’s George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project carried an estimated $3.5 billion price tag.
It would have been a 10-lane bridge with a series of roadworks, including new overpasses, on both sides of the river.
When that project was quashed, NDP Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said their technical review found that 10-lane bridge did not fully address a number of key considerations, such as community alignment, livability and cost, which likely resulted in stakeholder concerns.
“People are frustrated with the unacceptable congestion and bottleneck at the George Massey Tunnel and we understand that. Had the former government looked at the options fully and objectively, we wouldn’t be in this situation, but they did push ahead with a $3.5 billion mega project without listening to communities. We won’t make the same mistake,” she said at the time.
Delta South Liberal MLA Ian Paton following this week’s budget announcement said the higher cost is now even more startling for a scaled-down project, considering the low bid for his government’s project ended up coming in at under $3 billion.
“With the counter flow, the way it works now, you get three lanes in rush hour going in one direction. So, you wouldn’t be gaining much with these projects. That’s why we proposed a 10-lane bridge, which would at least be thinking a hundred years in the future. I believe that’s how these projects needs to be built,” said Paton.
Questioning the Metro mayors’ decision to recommend a tunnel, he noted the impact to the Fraser River and the lengthy assessment a tunnel would take had been avoided with his government’s bridge project which passed its environmental assessments.
During an open house in Tsawwassen this month on the two options now being considered, representatives from the transportation ministry told residents the previous project was “too big” a scale for the region.