The province is inching closer to making a decision on the new Massey Crossing, more than three years after preliminary construction work was halted by the minority NDP government.
On Thursday morning (Dec. 17), Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure announced it had received the business case for a proposed replacement of the aging George Massey Tunnel.
Detailed in the business case are the two shortlisted options presented to the public in February and March of this year: an eight-lane bridge and an eight-lane immersed tube tunnel. The government will review the submission and consult with partners and stakeholders before making a decision regarding which option will be built. The business case will be made public following that decision.
According to a technical analysis completed in December 2019, both the tunnel and the bridge options would have similar grades, include dedicated bus-only lanes and separated multi-use pathways for pedestrians and cyclists. Both options also come with comparable price tags — $4-5 billion for the tunnel and $3.5-4.5 billion for the bridge.
The immersed tube tunnel option, which was endorsed by Metro Vancouver’s board of directors in November 2019, would be about one kilometre longer and three metres deeper than the existing tunnel (to accommodate taller vehicles including double-decker buses), and located 42 metres upstream of the current structure to minimize property impacts, as well as reduce scouring at the existing GVRD water tunnel and avoid the location of a potential future BC Hydro transmission line, both of which are downstream.
The tunnel option would be a shorter crossing than the bridge and the project would also provide improved connectivity with Deas Island Regional Park.
The project would have in-river impacts during construction, however the analysis notes there is the potential for in-river habitat enhancements as well.
It’s estimated the environmental review for the tunnel option would take three years and construction would take five years, plus an extra year to close the portals of the existing tunnel and recommission it for “utility only” use. However, the report also notes that work in the river is likely to be limited to a six- or seven-month window each year, meaning if construction falls behind then critical path items could be delayed by six months or potentially even a year.
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The bridge option would be located 25 metres upstream of the current tunnel, stand 650 metres above the Fraser River and 380 metres above Deas Slough. With its suspended main section, the bridge would not require any piers in the Fraser River but would require them in Deas Slough.
The bridge would have more land-side property impacts than the tunnel option, including in Deas Island Regional Park, including long-term noise, light, visual and shading effects.
The environmental review for the bridge option is estimated to be shorter than the tunnel option, only one to two years, with the same five-year time frame for construction and additional year to close the portals of the existing tunnel and recommission it for “utility only” use.
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In the meantime, work continues on a $40-million suite of safety improvements to the Massey Tunnel.
Projects include resurfacing and line painting on Highway 99 between Steveston Highway and the Highway 17 Interchange (completed in November 2019); improving drainage to reduce pooling water and ice on the road at tunnel entrances; converting tunnel and roadway lighting to the LED standard to increase visibility and better illuminate the tunnel, as well as save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and upgrading the fire alarm, fire door, ventilation and electrical systems to ensure reliability and ongoing safety within the tunnel. Additional washing of the interior tunnel is also ongoing.
These additional safety improvements are scheduled to be complete by spring 2021.
More information on the project, including public engagement and technical work, is available at masseytunnel.ca.