VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – The Massey Tunnel will be replaced by a new bridge.

The premier made the announcement today at the Union of BC Municipalities convention. But Christy Clark says a lot of work needs to happen before the government decides whether to toll the new bridge.

The premier has announced construction will begin in 2017 to fix what she calls the worst traffic bottleneck in the Lower Mainland.

“Today marks the next phase of that project; the engineering and technical work for the new bridge and associated work along Highway 99 has now begun. Promise made, promise kept.”

The tunnel was built in the late 1950s.

Today’s announcement comes after months of consultations. Click here to find the final summary report of Phase 2 in the Massey Tunnel consultation process.

Would tolls be fair?

If the replacement bridge is tolled it will leave just only one free option for people trying to get in and out of the South Fraser area.

SFU Transportation Expert Gordon Price cautions against tolls and claims it would be a huge burden.

“It really is unfair because the rest of the region, in a sense, gets their bridges for free. We all pay for it, collectively, but in this case, it would be that if you live south of the Fraser, you’d be expected to pay that addition,” he says.

Price is calling for a fair collective road price strategy, where everyone pays a portion of road cost.

Tolls would have other consequences argues Price — as the cost of living in the region would slightly increase and it ultimately could affect home sales.

He also questions why the province didn’t use the upcoming TransLink referendum to let people vote on the replacement project.

Tearing down the tunnel would be a crime: George Massey’s son

The son of the late George Massey thinks another crossing across the Fraser River is a great idea, but not if it comes at the expense of the tunnel.

“I would be prepared to even start a petition to that effect,” says Doug Massey. “I’m not a young man anymore, but it just makes common sense that you would keep the present George Massey Tunnel and then build another crossing — be it a bridge or a tunnel — further up the river.”

“[The tunnel's] still got lots of life left to it; all they have to do is make some common sense improvements to it to make it safer and have it so the major truck traffic doesn’t go through there — that it goes over the new crossing,” he says.

He says the present tunnel has plenty of life left in it and he feels removing the structure would be crime.

As far as he’s concerned, the bridge option only benefits Port Metro Vancouver, as it would allow larger ships to pass through.

Mayor of Richmond says more needs to be done sooner

Malcolm Brodie says replacing the Massey Tunnel with a bridge is only part of the solution.

Brodie argues tackling congestion along the Highway 99 corridor can’t wait until the year 2017.

“There’s an old expression that you don’t build your way out of congestion and I firmly believe that. I think that we need to adopt some strategies that can be done in conjunction with a new bridge, but don’t feel that the job is done by building a new bridge.”

He’d also like to see Port Metro Vancouver make some changes.

“You need to insist that the port adopts 24 hour operations so that you can take a lot of those trucks and have them on the road in the middle of the night and take them off the road at peak times.”

He says it’s all about managing existing resources now and he thinks more money needs to be put into buses.

This will make things easier for a few reasons: Kim Seale

Kim Seale flies in the News1130 Air Patrol several times a day, almost every day, and says even a tolled bridge would be well worth it.

“If you’ve ever been panicked, waiting on either side of that tunnel, especially on the Richmond side, trying to get to a ferry or something, you’re going to pay that two or three dollars no matter what. It’s going to be amazing to be able to get there on time.”

Kim says the Highway 99 corridor is an important gateway and adding capacity will go a long way to easing cross-border traffic and helping local tourism

She can see that it’s the biggest choke point on the Lower Mainland.

“It’s three lanes, I mean we do that for the Lions Gate. People that don’t use that every day don’t have a clue how bad it is over there. Since we’ve replaced the Port Mann, it’s going to get better over there, that was our worst area, but the Massey Tunnel is definitely the big problem right now.”

Environmental impact

This news brings worry about how the project would impact the surrounding environment.

“This is going to create a real impact on the Fraser River, and ultimately on the bog as well,” says Aliza Olsen with the Burns Bog Conservation Society.

“There’s going to be greater pressure to develop more of the land surrounding the bog, and that’s going to put more impact on the long-term sustainability.”

Olsen calls this step backward to efforts to make sure the bog is well-kept for the future.