BC Liberals vow 'aggressive plan' to solve Massey Tunnel bottleneck

Libs promise 'traffic sanity'

If the BC Liberals are elected in a few weeks’ time, they will tackle the Massey Tunnel replacement saga with an “aggressive plan” to deliver “traffic sanity on Highway 99.”

That was the pledge of party leader Andrew Wilkinson, during a campaign stop Monday in Richmond.

Wilkinson said it's unacceptable for the city “to have the biggest traffic bottleneck in western Canada.”

“We will be putting forward a plan to quickly, effectively and dramatically solve the bottleneck at the George Massey tunnel,” he said.

Wilkinson pointed out there were already 13,000 pages of consultation and that all the necessary engineering work was done on the previous plan to replace the aging Massey Tunnel with a 10-lane bridge.

Meanwhile, Matt Pitcairn, BC Liberal candidate for Richmond-Steveston, said that both the project and “getting shovels on the ground” will be an “absolute priority” for the Liberals, if elected.

That could mean resurrecting the “shovel-ready” bridge, he said, as that design has already gone through the environmental assessment process.

“The Liberals will get construction on this project started during the greatest economic recession of our lifetime, to get people back to work, get people and goods moving in and out of Richmond on the fastest timeline possible,” Pitcairn said.

The plan to replace the aging Massey crossing was first announced by the previous BC Liberal government in 2012, and was advanced as far as starting $70-million worth of prep work along the Fraser River.

The total project was slated to cost $3.5 billion. However, the BC NDP said during the 2017 election campaign that leaked documents showed the total cost could be nearer $12 billion.

The NDP put a halt to the project shortly after coming to power in 2017, and went back to the drawing board after a third-party review found the 10-lane bridge was greater than what the region needed.

The review also recommended that the new crossing should respect the need to maintain agricultural and park lands.  

Last fall, Metro Vancouver’s board of directors endorsed an eight-lane immersed tube tunnel option for the new crossing. The province was also considering a second short-listed option, an eight-lane bridge.

A business case, with the chosen option, was expected to be announced this fall. Meanwhile, the BC Liberals have claimed the 10-lane bridge would be three-quarters built by now.

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie is against the 10-lane bridge, and said it would fundamentally change the area around Steveston Highway and Highway 99.

“You only have to look at the Steveston interchange, to realize the gravity of it,” he said. “It is three levels high, and as you lead up to the bridge, from north going south…there’s something like 20 lanes of highway traffic.”

The plan included building a large cloverleaf, and the city had expressed concern about the infrastructure encroaching into parkland and the ALR.

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