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View from the Board: George Massey Tunnel replacement project is necessary

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by Jack Davidson

It gets quite frustrating when with every new, important infrastructure announcement it seems the media focuses on the naysayers and their negative aspects of the project instead of the many positive ones. This is no different with the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project.
View from the Board: George Massey Tunnel replacement project is necessary

 

We keep hearing about the large cost and potential environmental factors, however it's important to also highlight and promote the many positive elements of this much needed infrastructure project.

The population only continues to increase with more people moving out to the Fraser Valley and surrounding areas so unsurprisingly, the 1950s built George Massey Tunnel has become the worst traffic bottleneck in B.C.

The replacement project will save up to 30 minutes a day for rush hour commuters, reduce idling by one million hours and remove 9,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHG) each year.

Collisions will be reduced by an estimated 35 per cent and the replacement bridge will dramatically improve safety in the event of an earthquake.

While opponents may complain that there has not been enough consultation, three full rounds of public engagement over three years were held with more than 3,000 participants.

Over 3,600 pages of project information were publically released on the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure's (MoTI) website.

There have been more than 20 meetings each with Metro Vancouver and TransLink over the past three years to discuss various project aspects including traffic, land use, transit and air quality.

The MoTI has had more than 70 meetings each with Richmond and Delta over the past three years. Both municipalities have provided valuable comments that have shaped the project scope.

Some are saying the project will not benefit the environment.

Current congestion at the tunnel creates an estimated one million hours of idling a year.

Keeping traffic moving will undoubtedly reduce GHG emissions.

A free-flowing bridge will include more transit and cycling options and provide better connections to existing transit services which will take cars off the road.

The project specs have committed to no net loss of agricultural land and is working with farmers to achieve a net gain in quality farmland in Richmond and Delta.

Farmers will also benefit from reduced congestion, improved travel times and improved access between farms on both sides of Highway 99.

Compared to a new tunnel, a bridge is safer, has less impact on agriculture, is less expensive to construct to modern seismic standards and will have less of an overall environmental impact.

A lot has changed in the 57 years since the original Massey Tunnel was built. A 10-lane bridge is the best option now and for the future.

Jack Davidson is the president of the B.C. Road Builders & Heavy Construction Association. He is also a member of the JOC Editorial Advisory Board. Send comments or questions to editor@journalofcommerce.com.

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