In 2017, the government will be moving ahead with the planning and development of the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project which means a new bridge for Highway 99. Christy Clark, Premier of BC announced this news release on September 20, 2013. The George Massey Tunnel is a key commuting component for many travelers throughout the week and has served the community well since 1959, carrying about 80,000 vehicles a day. Although the tunnel has approximately ten years left of useful life, Clark says she is keeping her promise to replace the tunnel and improve the Highway 99 surrounding.
The Process and Options
The first step of the project was to inform the public and gain support from them. The B.C. Government has laid out five options for replacing the tunnel. These options include:
- Maintaining and upgrading the existing tunnel with no increase in the current capacity.
- Replacing the tunnel with a bridge in the exact same location the tunnel is now.
- Replacing the Massey tunnel with a new tunnel. Location would be beside the current one.
- Adding the new bridge or tunnel alongside the Massey Tunnel and keeping the tunnel available to use.
- Building a new bridge or tunnel in a new location.
All potential plans including new development would include HOV lanes, bike and pedestrian access and improvements to Highway 99.
The Positive and Negative Impacts
On a positive outlook, a new bridge will improve travel times for transit, commuters and commercial users. BC Trucking Association explains, in the government news release how the tunnel itself is more negative on the safety and efficiency with trucks specifically which has slowed our economy. With option two, extra farmland and dredging will be impacted during the development and finalizing process. However, it can be seen as not the worst thing. This is because; it will allow more vessels to be transported to the Surrey Docks along the Fraser River. The extra dredging in the surrounding water would only be two extra metres. Expansion, growth and efficiency would be affected most by this replacement project.
As an opposing side of the tunnel replacement project, provincial government has mentioned the George Massey Tunnel still has ten years before it would need maintenance. This means until then, the tunnel is still functioning well for the community. Critics of the new bridge are also concerned with environmental habitats that will be ruined once development of the bridge starts in 2017. Wetland ecosystems and salmon fishing migration rely on the surrounding areas of the tunnel which connects the wildlife with their migration routines and living conditions. The future construction of land and extra dredging in the water would negatively impact our valued ecosystem and living creatures left in the Lower Mainland.
– Amanda Harris