The province is poised to start awarding contracts for work related to replacing the George Massey Tunnel with a new bridge.
Four requests for proposals were issued Oct. 1 for technical advisory services for planning, procurement and implementation phases of the promised megaproject.
Transportation Minister Todd Stone said the consultants who will be hired to provide engineering, environmental, community relations and other technical advice will help the province decide the scope of the project.
“Is the project just a bridge or is it a bridge and approaches on either side?” Stone asked. “Once we’re able to really tightly define the scope, we’ll be able to hammer down the budget and then of course decide what funding model we’ll use to actually pay for the project.”
Asked if an eventual decision to toll the new bridge might not affect its use and should therefore be considered in the design stage, Stone said no.
“Before you get into a discussion on funding you have to first determine what you’re building. This could be a $1 billion project. This could be a $3 billion project, depending on the extent of work in addition to the bridge itself.”
The Sept. 20 bridge announcement was accompanied by graphics depicting a 10-lane span and the premier said it could cost up to $3 billion.
Stone said funding for the Massey bridge project won’t be part of the future referendum on TransLink funding options because the Highway 99 crossing is a provincial responsibility.
The terms of the contracts run until 2022 and the requests for proposals closed Oct. 24.
The advisory services contractors are separate from the eventual later choice of a construction team to design and build the new bridge, as well as potentially finance and operate it as a broader public-private partnership.
Stone said he also plans a “refresh” of the Provincial Transit Plan in the new year.
Stone said there’s are demands for improved transit province-wide – not just in the Lower Mainland – that cities can’t always fund themselves.
He also acknowledged the challenges of different bridges in Metro being controlled by TransLink and the province, while tolling some of them but not all has raised questions about potentially reforming the province’s tolling policy.
“I think a discussion at a higher level about the need to ensure our transportation and transit system is truly integrated is a discussion we need to have.”