The George Massey tunnel is considered B.C.’s worst traffic congestion point, and unable to withstand a major earthquake. (Black Press file photo)

Technical review of George Massey Tunnel underway

The independent review is expected to take six months

The province is moving forward with a technical review of the George Massey Tunnel, after hiring engineer Stan Cowdell to lead the independent study.

Cowdell is the president of Westmar Project Advisors Inc., and will lead the review with the help of additional experts in geotechnical, tunnel, bridge and road construction, traffic engineering, and transportation planning fields, as recruited by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

Related: What’s plan B for Massey Tunnel, opposition asks

In September, the new NDP government announced the construction of a 10-lane replacement bridge would be put on hold as the new government looked to do an independent review.

“There’s a sense that not all the options were thoroughly examined,” Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said when the review was first announced.

The procurement process, which had already begun and seen bids placed for the construction of the bridge, was cancelled in September. At the time, preliminary work on the bridge had already begun on the replacement bridge.

Related: B.C. pauses Massey bridge work to conduct new review

According to a press release sent out by the B.C. government on Nov. 1, the review’s main goal will be to look at the lifespan, safety, seismic vulnerability and current congestion of the tunnel. Cowdell will also review the technical information already produced for the replacement project and “challenge or verify the assumptions made out of that work,” the release said.

According to the terms of reference for the independent review, it will not reconsider decisions made by the environmental assessment process, the Agricultural Land Commission review, or other statutory decision-makers. The review is expected to take about six months.

Related: Massey Tunnel replacement debate spinning its wheels

Based on Cowdell’s analysis, the province will determine next steps to address safety and congestion along Highway 99.

As the review moves forward, the province said it will continue to engage with Metro Vancouver mayors to ensure future plans for Highway 99 fit into the overall vision for the Metro Vancouver region.

In the past, Delta Mayor Lois Jackson has been the only Metro Vancouver mayor in favour of the 10-lane replacement bridge. Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie has been one of the most outspoken against the bridge plan.

Related: Metro Vancouver mayors cautiously laud Massey Bridge review

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