A group of Metro Vancouver mayors are calling on the province to get moving on a replacement for the Massey Tunnel.
The project was delayed in December after a B.C government-commissioned review determined more consulting needed to be done on how best to replace the aging and heavily congested tunnel.
In a letter to B.C. Premier John Horgan, the Metro Vancouver mayors and First Nations leaders say they have agreed on a solution that is supported in the region, and want construction completed by 2026 at the latest — four years earlier than the province’s most generous timeline.
“What happened before was a lack of consensus amongst the mayors prior to the last municipal election,” Delta mayor George Harvie said.
“Now, we do have consensus and I think that’s going to ensure that the political push is there from the region to get the province to work with their federal counterparts to come to a solution and start building something.”
That consenus is a list of suggestions agreed upon by the group of mayors and submitted to the province.
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In addition to Harvie, the letter is signed by Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker and Chief Wayne Sparrow of the Musqueam Indian Band.
The suggestions include addressing First Nations concerns on any in-river works and fisheries impacts, something that was suggested in the previous review of the project. The group adds in the letter they don’t want that process to be prolonged.
“We have to make sure that whatever solution is made, it’s not going to take a five-to-seven-year environmental assessment,” Harvie said.
Regardless, Harvie said that the heavy and unpredictable congestion at the current Massey Tunnel is enough to show that this project needs to be fast-tracked, as it impacts just about everyone from businesses to families.
“Even when you’re coming home from a hard day at work and you’re trying to make your child’s baseball game or soccer game or whatever activity, or you’re trying to pick them up at daycare, it’s a stress to the family not knowing exactly how long it’s going to take through that congestion,” the mayor said.
Harvie said the submitted letter is essentially the last piece of the puzzle, and they are still waiting to hear back from Horgan.
In the meantime, the group of mayors suggest that the province work with TransLink to provide more funding for higher-frequency transit services.
They’re also suggesting a new six-lane tunnel instead of the current four, and that Highway 99 be looked at entirely and evaluated for improvements.
The province’s report last year said a wider tunnel should be considered along with a possible bridge, which would be six to eight lanes instead of the original 10-lane bridge replacement approved by the previous Liberal government.
Horgan said Thursday that his government will look at meeting the mayors’ request for an earlier completion date.
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“We heard today that 2026 was a date that the Mayors’ Council was comfortable with,” he said. “We’re going to work as hard as we can to address the challenges there.”
In a statement, Minister of Transportation Claire Trevena said she was “pleased” the mayors had come together to find a solution.
“While this letter demonstrates the failures of the last government, we’re encouraged to see a consensus emerging in favour of a new tunnel with clear objectives to fix this bottleneck without making drivers pay unfair tolls,” Trevena said.
“We are listening. We will work to get it right. “