Plans to replace the aging and congested George Massey Tunnel took another step forward Friday.
Metro Vancouver’s board of directors has voted to endorse an eight-lane immersed-tube tunnel as its replacement, following the recommendation by a task force last month.
“We recognize how currently it is currently stopping the economic activity or slowing it down. People are very frustrated,” said board chair Sav Dhaliwal.
“It has been on the list for a long time. We are really, really hoping the province will take this recommendation and start moving with the business case next year, and hopefully there’s consultation that will approve the eight lane tunnel and we will get on with the work.”
Board members voted for the project subject to nine conditions to the provincial government.
Those include addressing First Nations and environmental concerns, addressing Vancouver, Richmond and Delta’s traffic and land-use concerns, and a timeline of completion by 2026-2027.
Immersed-tube tunnel construction refers to the use of pre-fabricated tunnel segments that are moved into place and assembled on site.
The project would include six lanes for traffic, along with two dedicated transit lanes and a multi-use pathway.
The proposal calls for one kilometre of tunnelling and the removal of about 1.5 million cubic metres of salt-contaminated soil.
The tunnel will have a significant short-term environmental impact during construction, with excavation on both the north and south bank of the Fraser River, but a lower long-term impact.
Fish habitat in the area will require a complex environmental assessment, according to the task force’s report.
The eight-lane immersed-tube tunnel option was selected over similarly priced six- and eight-lane bridge options and the more expensive six- and eight-lane deep-bored tunnel options, as well as options that looked at retaining the current tunnel for transit use.
Replacing the existing tunnel has become a years-long saga.
The previous BC Liberal government had intended to replace it with a 10-lane bridge, and advanced the project as far as beginning $70 million worth of preparatory construction work on the banks of the Fraser River.
But the NDP paused the project shortly after coming to power in 2017.
After commissioning a third-party review, the Horgan government scrapped the bridge option, and sent planners back to the drawing board, leading to the selection of the new tunnel option.