RICHMOND, B.C. —The province of B.C. has announced it will cancel procurement on the George Massey Tunnel replacement bridge project to investigate other transportation options for the corridor.
In a press release issued Wednesday (Sept. 6), the NDP government stated that the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is proceeding with an independent technical review of the tunnel corridor to "find a solution that gets people and goods moving and makes sense for commuters across the region."
The ministry is still looking to recruit someone to lead the review who has expertise on highway infrastructure construction, transportation planning and traffic engineering.
The province explained the review will focus on what level of improvement is needed in the context of regional and provincial planning, growth and vision as well as which option would be best for the corridor, be it the proposed 10-lane bridge, a smaller bridge or a tunnel.
The review will also take stock of what work has already been completed.
B.C.'s work on the project, up to this point, will be looked at closely, including technical information developed by the project team and from Metro Vancouver municipalities as well as new analysis that includes looking at how the removal of tolls will affect the crossing.
The province has signalled it intends to develop a new transportation strategy around tolling, removing the tolls on the Port Mann Bridge and Golden Ears bridge starting this month. During the review process, Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claire Trevena will consult mayors from Metro Vancouver, including Richmond and Delta, to address their concerns and ideas.
Based on the recommendations received, the province will then determine next steps to address the congestion along the Highway 99 corridor.
Current procurement activity is now on hold until the results of the review are released and the project will not be budgeted for in the government's capital plan, the province's statement reads.
Officials said the terms of the request for proposals dictate that each of the two final bidding teams will be paid up to $2 million to help offset their expenses to date.
So far the province has spent approximately $66 million on the estimated $3.5-billion bridge project and BC Hydro has spent approximately $25 million on its transmission relocation project.
The province made it clear, however, that none of this has been in vain as the completed work will be utilized no matter what option is chosen.
While the bridge has had its critics, others, like the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA), are disappointed in the decision.
"Our members have invested considerable time and effort in planning what we believe was the best solution to easing the worst traffic bottleneck in the province," said Rieghardt van Enter, B.C. regional director for PCA in a press release. "This crossing is just too important to commuters, communities and industry not to get going with a replacement project as soon as possible."
The PCA noted that over a three-year period, a great deal of work has been done. More than 3,000 participants have been involved in the public engagement process and dozens of meetings with Metro Vancouver, TransLink, Richmond and Delta have been held to discuss the project scope.
"We look forward to fully and constructively participating in the review process," added Paul de Jong, PCA president. "As leading builders in key infrastructure projects in the Lower Mainland, we are ready, willing and well qualified to work with the provincial government to build solutions that benefit British Columbians."