The Government of British Columbia has released the report summarizing Phase 3 of consultations on the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project, confirming strong public support for capacity improvements to address congestion, the proposed interchange improvements, and the transit, cycling and pedestrian measures to encourage greener transportation choices.
“We’ve heard from thousands of British Columbians during the last three years of consultations, and their input has helped shape the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone. “The input we’ve most recently received confirms support for the environmental benefits of the project, and for much-needed capacity improvements that will benefit the entire region.”
"Tsawwassen First Nation is very supportive of the plan to replace the George Massey Tunnel,” said Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Bryce Williams. “Tsawwassen First Nation is building a sustainable and vibrant economic future – one that is integrated with the rest of the region. Travel times to shop, to work, or to live on Tsawwassen Lands depend largely on replacing the aging tunnel with a bridge designed to handle current and future growth in our corner of the Lower Mainland. We also need to make sure that the project has the appropriate community consultation and environmental reviews in order to minimize any impact on our territory, our treaty rights, and the Fraser River fishery, and we will be looking to ensure that a rigorous assessment does take place.”
Phase 3 of consultations on the project ran from Dec. 16, 2015, to Jan. 28, 2016, and included online engagement, nine stakeholder meetings and two open houses held in Delta and Richmond.
More than 1,000 feedback forms were received by the ministry, the majority of which were completed online. A total of 750 people participated in the open houses. The project team also met with more than 100 people representing at least 60 organizations at the stakeholder meetings. Respondents live across the Metro Vancouver region, with a higher concentration of participants from Delta, Richmond and Vancouver.
"The Province's initial consultations with the Richmond Farmers Institute and continued inclusion as a stakeholder of the new bridge crossing over the existing alignment has highlighted the importance of agriculture in our community,” said Richmond Farmers Institute president Todd May. “We appreciate the ongoing dialogue in addressing the impacts and concerns of Richmond's farming community and ensuring the significant contributions of agriculture and its viability continue now and in the future."
Other findings from the recent consultation include:
- General support for tolling as a funding mechanism, although many participants suggested that tolling should be applied in the context of a regional tolling policy, and some participants opposed any toll.
- Strong support for also using other funding sources such as a federal funding contribution and contributions from Port Metro Vancouver.
- Comments about potential increased traffic congestion at the Oak Street Bridge and to a lesser extent, other Fraser River North Arm crossings.
- Interest in additional transit improvements including timing for extending rapid transit in the future. Some participants expressed a preference for transit-only improvements instead.
- Keen interest in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and how the project will contribute to this.
- Questions about tunnel decommissioning and the potential effects of increased marine traffic/industrialization of the Fraser River if the tunnel is removed.
The ministry respects the comments offered by the public during consultations, and will work toward addressing those as the process unfolds. For example, with respect to greenhouse gas emissions, the project will help reduce the one million hours of idling caused by current traffic congestion. Transit/HOV infrastructure enhancements will help increase transit ridership. The ministry has also formed a working group with key stakeholders to ensure input from cyclists as the project is refined.
“Our province has had incredible growth in the last 50 years. We are one of the most desirable places to live and work in the world and that growth is going to continue,” said Ocean Trailer president Sid Keay. “It's absolutely vital that our infrastructure catch up and be able to keep up with that growth. The movement of people and cargo in a safe, timely and cost effective manner is vital to the quality of life we British Columbians deserve. The tunnel replacement with a modern new bridge structure will go a long way to doing just that.”
The next step for the project is the submission of the formal application for environmental assessment to the Province’s Environmental Assessment Office, followed by a public comment period on the environmental application. That will happen in late spring or early summer. Around the same time, the Province also intends to issue a Request for Qualifications in preparation for the future procurement process.
In the meantime, the project team will continue to meet with local and regional governments, and other important stakeholders including cycling groups, farmers and TransLink to work through continuing project scope refinements.
Construction on the project, highlighted by a new 10-lane bridge on the existing Highway 99 alignment, will begin in 2017. The cost is estimated at $3.5 billion. When completed, the new bridge will save commuters 30 minutes every day and reduce vehicle idling by one million hours a year. Direct employment created by the project is estimated at 9,000 jobs.
More information on the project is available online at: www.masseytunnel.ca
The Consultation Summary Report for Phase 3 of project consultations is available in the project’s document library at: http://engage.gov.bc.ca/masseytunnel/documentlibrary/