Even though an eight-lane tube tunnel is now the focus of further discussion surrounding a replacement for the George Massey tunnel in the lead-up to a final decision, the preferred option of a Metro Vancouver Task Force isn't sitting well with everyone.
Former Delta Mayor and current councillor Lois Jackson she's not against the tunnel – she just still favours a bridge.
“I stick with the bridge. I think it’s going to be a lot easier, a lot better,” Jackson said.
Jackson was a supporter of the previous BC Liberal government’s plan to build a 10-lane bridge at an estimated cost of $3.5 billion dollars, which was put on hold after the current NDP government took power. She said the tube tunnel is going to require a federal environmental review due to the impact to the Fraser River.
“It’s going to disrupt the environment tremendously. I have a real problem with that, and I don’t know what we’re thinking in this day and age,” Jackson said.
A technical evaluation found of the six short-listed options being considered, the tube tunnel would have the “greatest environmental impact during construction," due to the need for excavation on both sides of the river.
Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, who moved forward the motion supporting the endorsement of the tube tunnel option, said the environmental impact of the tunnel will be less than a bridge in the long term.
“There is a certain amount of short-run pain, but in the long run it works out very well,” Brodie said.
The same technical review found Deas Island Regional Park and some Delta communities would be impacted by traffic noise, lights, and shade from the bridge on an ongoing basis.
Brodie added though two lanes of the tunnel will be dedicated to transit, at peak periods there would be the potential to increase one side to four lanes.
“You’ll still have, even in peak times, you’ll have double the capacity going the direction of all the traffic, you’ll have double the capacity for those going the other way,” Brodie said.
According to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, all of the six options included plans for two lanes dedicated for transit and both cycling and pedestrian paths.
As for cost, that’s still unknown. The technical evaluation didn’t provide any specific estimates for a bridge versus a tube tunnel, only saying the price tags are expected to be similar.
Drivers will still be waiting a while for a new crossing. A completed business case for the project isn’t expected until next fall. The recommendation made by the task force will come to the Metro Vancouver board in November, but the province will still make the final decision. In an emailed statement, the ministry said that decision would be “based on what we hear from Metro Vancouver and others in our engagement process, and completing the business case which will fully identify the costs and benefits of the options.”