DELTA — The bridge to replace the George Massey Tunnel will cost $3.5 billion and will be tolled with crossing fees “comparable” to those charged on the Port Mann Bridge, provincial Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone has revealed.
Construction on the new 10-lane bridge, to be built over the Fraser River at Highway 99, on the same spot as the aging tunnel, is expected to begin in early 2017 and will create more than 9,000 construction jobs.
Stone launched the third phase of public consultation on the project Wednesday, flanked by Delta Mayor Lois Jackson and Delta North MLA Scott Hamilton.
North Delta, Stone said, will be one of the communities “so dramatically affected” by the bridge project.
“This will be the largest bridge ever built in B.C.,” Stone said. “When completed, it will address what is now the worst traffic bottleneck in the province.”
Thousands of Surrey and North Delta residents use the tunnel each day. Stone said the bridge should spare commuters roughly 30 minutes in commuting time each day.
It will be three kilometres long, with its major piers built on land to reduce impact on the Fraser, and will feature four regular lanes and one transit/HOV lane in either direction.
Three interchanges will also be replaced, one on the Delta side and two in Richmond, 24 kilometers of Highway 99 will be widened and traffic will continue on through the tunnel while the bridge is being constructed.
Stone noted that over the next 20 years, the Lower Mainland is expected to grow by one million residents, with many settling in south of the Fraser. The new bridge, therefore, will be built to potentially accommodate rapid transit in the future.
While singing the new bridge’s praises, Stone also paid homage to the aged tunnel, which opened on May 24, 1959 and took five months to build at a cost of $25 million.
“It certainly was an engineering marvel,” Stone said.
Meanwhile, Hamilton said the bridge announcement marked an “exciting and historic day.” The bridge is expected to reduce traffic crashes by 35 per cent, he said, and reduce vehicle idling time by one million hours each year.
Jackson said the announcement “is so welcome I am almost at a loss for words.
“I’m so pleased,” she said. “We have waited in Delta for a long time for an announcement.”
This third phase of public consultation will be underway until Jan. 28 and details on how to participate are available at www.masseytunnel.ca.
“We want to hear from the public,” Jackson said.
A transportation ministry spokeswoman said the bridge will likely retain the name George Massey.
The tunnel was originally named the Deas Island Tunnel but was renamed after MLA Nehamiah “George” Massey in 1967, three years after his death. Massey served Delta from 1956 to 1960.
Crossing the Port Mann Bridge currently costs commuters anywhere between $1.60 for motorcyclists to $9.45 for large trucks.