The province has issued an environmental assessment certificate for the Massey Bridge.
According to an Environment Ministry release, the certificate was issued because the new bridge’s construction shouldn’t cause any significant adverse effects.
The project comes with 33 conditions which include consulting with local first nations, notifying Richmond and Delta in advance of beginning work and have in place an environmental monitoring plan that addresses fisheries, drainage and vegetation. A provincial tender for Hwy. 99 site preparation between Deas Slough and Hwy. 17 in Delta closed on Wednesday.
The province’s $3.5 billion plan for a 10-lane toll bridge to replace the aging Massey Tunnel has been met with resistance from environmental groups and Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie. Metro Vancouver as a whole voted to oppose the Massey Bridge in June 2016.
“They talk about changing the on and off ramps so that there will be some property reclaimed by the adjacent farmers,” Brodie said. “We’ll have to wait and see how much of that and is actually usable. We are still very concerned about agricultural impacts.”
(Proposed Hwy. 99 Steveston overpass, below)
The Wilderness Committee’s Peter McCartney said that the province is ignoring the climate change impact of expanding highways.
“Expanding highways enables urban sprawl, encourages pollution and ultimately increases congestion,” he said. “Imagine how far $3.5 billion would go towards more bus and SkyTrain service.”
McCartney also believes that replacing the Massey Tunnel with a bridge is a way to get bigger ships through the Fraser River.
“This is the Port of Vancouver’s pet project to get rid of the tunnel so they can increase the size of ships on the Fraser,” said McCartney.
However, the province said that tunnel decommissioning would not result in changes to the size of vessels using the Fraser River.
South of the Fraser, Delta Mayor Lois Jackson approves of the project and has denounced what she called “myths” circulated by opponents in the past. Jackson however, isn’t in favour of tolling individual bridges. Instead, she wants to see a “buck a bridge” option where all crossings are tolled.
Transportation Minister Todd Stone said that once the Alex Fraser Bridge becomes the only non-tolled crossing of the Fraser River, the province will have to review its tolling policy. The Mayors Council and Translink have indicated that they plan to toll the upcoming replacement of the Pattulo Bridge.