Several Metro Vancouver mayors and two First Nations chiefs have sent a joint letter to Premier John Horgan asking for “immediate action” to solve congestion around the George Massey Tunnel.
The letter sets out a number of criteria for the project, including completing construction by 2025-2026, four to five years sooner than the project’s current timeline.
“With the timelines currently being contemplated by the province, construction on a new crossing may not be completed before 2030 — a delay that greatly impacts the lives of tens of thousands of residents who make use of the tunnel each day, and the overall liveability of our region,” the letter reads.
The letter came about as a result of a meeting of municipal leaders organized by Delta Mayor George Harvie on Feb. 21 and was co-signed by Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker, Musqueam Indian Band Chief Wayne Sparrow and then-Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Bryce Williams.
The mayors and chiefs were able to come to a consensus on several points. They agreed that only tunnel options should be considered, including a cost-effective deep bored tunnel “if possible,” and that those options should have six lanes for regular and commercial traffic and two lanes for transit with the potential to convert them to rail in the future, plus dedicated facilities for pedestrians and cyclists.
The group also suggested the scope of the project should be expanded to include improvements along the entire Highway 99 corridor, specifically mentioning existing congestion at interchanges in South Surrey, and that it should address Richmond and Vancouver’s concerns regarding the potential to worsen congestion at the Oak Street Bridge and along the Oak Street corridor.
Other considerations the mayors and chiefs want the project to address include First Nation concerns regarding in-river works and fisheries impacts, Richmond and Delta’s concerns regarding local impacts at interchanges or access points, minimizing impacts on agricultural land and not creating additional potentially costly, lengthy or prohibitive environmental challenges or reviews.
The signatories also say whatever solution the province lands on must serve the needs of the region to at least 2100 and should be consistent with Metro Vancouver’s regional growth strategy and TransLink’s regional transportation strategy, the latter of which is currently being updated.
|Delta Mayor George Harvie (centre-left) met with other mayors and First Nation chiefs on Feb. 21, 2019, to “achieve consensus and present a united voice to the provincial government about the need to take immediate action to solve traffic congestion at the George Massey Tunnel,” according to City of Delta press release. From left to right: Chief Wayne Sparrow (Musqueam Indian Band), former Chief Bryce Williams (Tsawwassen First Nation), Mayor George Harvie (Delta), Mayor Doug McCallum (Surrey), Mayor Malcolm Brodie (Richmond) and Mayor Darryl Walker (White Rock). (City of Delta photo)|
“I am gratified that my colleagues across the region also view this as a very important issue,” Harvie said in a press release. “I hope we will be able to convince the province of the urgency of taking immediate action to resolve this terrible bottleneck.”
Harvie, Brodie, McCallum, Stewart and Walker were recently appointed to Metro Vancouver’s new George Massey Crossing Task Force, which will be responsible for reviewing project-related materials and providing feedback to provincial representatives, and considering project-related impacts to Metro Vancouver assets, plans, and infrastructure.
The task force — which also includes mayors Jack Froese (Langley Township), Val van den Broek (Langley City), and Jonathan Coté (New Westminster, representing the TransLink Mayor’s Council on Regional Transportation) as well as Chief Ken Baird of the Tsawwassen First Nation and Metro Vancouver board chair Sav Dhaliwal (Burnaby) — will also provide the Metro Vancouver board with advice and recommendations about the project via the organization’s finance and intergovernment committee.
On Friday, April 26, the board is set to vote on supporting the project principles and goals developed by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. Those goals are, broadly, to support the sustainability of Fraser River communities, facilitate an increased share of sustainable modes of transport, enhance regional goods movement and commerce, and support a healthy environment.
The principles and goals mark the first of three phases of engagement between the province and Metro Vancouver, TransLink, area municipalities and local First Nations, according to a report by Metro Vancouver staff. Phase two involves working with stakeholders to identify crossing options and choose one that best meets those goals. Phase two is expected to be completed by the end of November, 2019.
After that, the province will conduct a detailed assessment of the preferred option and finalize a business case for the project, expected by November 2020.