Delta is changing its tune — but not its messaging — for the George Massey Tunnel replacement project.
Delta council approved a new staff report on Aug. 14 to be sent out to Premier John Horgan and Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claire Trevena that, unlike one released in early July, emphasizes the need for the new government to take time to review its options in regards to the George Massey Tunnel replacement and offers Delta’s services if needed to help make those decisions.
“We recognize the new government has to take its time to make its own decision,” Delta CAO George Harvie said, adding it would be best if Delta were “going in as a partner, versus a local government that’s an adversary.”
Through the report, Delta council is requesting an extension on the bid process for the replacement project, “so that the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure has an opportunity to review the technical information and project rationale before making an informed decision regarding the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project.”
The request for proposals in the bid procress was announced on Oct. 12, 2016, and was anticipated to be decided in summer 2017.
“What we’re emphasizing [is that Minister Trevena] could work with the individuals that put in the bids … to look at extending those, in order to give them proper time to do their own analysis,” Harvie said.
In the report, Delta also requested the provincial government determine a plan of action to address current safety concerns in the tunnel; review and comment on the significance of Highway 99 as a “lifeline corridor” for earthquake emergency response; and review options for tunnel decommisioning, which includes the option to leave the tunnel in place.
Decommissioning the tunnel and leaving it in place is a different option from the one presented in the original bridge plan, but Harvie said its one Delta is supporting.
“We recognize the new government will be looking at options,” Harvie said.
“So it was an oppotunity for us to look at something different than what was proposed, and we strongly feel it should just stay in place.”
Harvie said Delta had heard concerns from First Nations groups about what a decommisioned and removed tunnel could do to the fisheries in Delta. The Delta Farmers Institute also expressed fears that removing the tunnel could move the salt wedge — the section of river where sea water meets fresh water — further upstream towards the irrigation intake at 80th Street.
Keeping the tunnel in place would also alleviate concerns that a new bridge would open the river up for more and larger ship traffic.
In addition to the Premier and the Minister of Transportation, the report will also be sent to the Delta, Richmond, South Surrey, White Rock and B.C. Chambers of Commerce; Delta MP Carla Qualtrough; Minister of Transport Marc Garneau; all B.C. MLAs; all Metro Vancouver board members; the Vancouver and Surrey Boards of Trade; the Greater Vancouver Gateway Council; the B.C. Trucking Association; Port of Vancouver; the Delta Farmers’ Institute; and the Tsawwassen First Nation and neighbouring First Nations.
Although Delta may have changed its tune, Mayor Lois Jackson hasn’t.
She noted her reception at the Metro Vancouver board meeting was less than satisfactory, claiming the chair called her to order after three minutes while allowing “the rest of the meeting to run quite over.”
Jackson also spoke out once again against the actions of TransLink’s Mayor’s Council — which denied Jackson’s request to have Harvie give a presentation on the replacement bridge on July 27 — calling it a “slap in the face.”
“I contrast that with the reception we got from the minster,” Jackson continued. “She was very gracious with her time, and listened very attentively and asked many questions.”