British Columbia’s provincial government on Feb. 9 issued an environmental assessment certificate to the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project. The move clears the way for a new 2-mile, 10-lane, clear-span bridge over the southern arm of the Fraser River as part of Highway 99, south of Vancouver. By fall, smaller contracts and the main construction contract are expected to be in place for work to start on the largest bridge ever built in Canada.

Currently, the George Massey Tunnel, south of Richmond, B.C., on Highway 99, carries an average of 80,000 vehicles each day. But the four-lane tunnel, opened in 1957, often is bottlenecked, causing delays of up to three miles in length. The British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure expects the new bridge to reduce the backup by half. The crossing is expected to open in 2022.

The environmental certificate sets 33 legally binding conditions for the $3.5-billion project. The province has not finalized a design, but a cable-stay scheme is likely.

The tendering process started in January. The ministry soon will name the recipients of the first two contracts, both for site preparation—one on the south side in Delta and the other on the north side in Richmond—in order to improve ground conditions for future lane widening. Site preparation will include ditch improvements and the placement of pre-load material on soft soils, immediately adjacent to the existing highway, the ministry says.

Information gathered from the first two contracts will be provided to the three short-listed teams for the main contract. Those teams, still in the RFP stage, include Gateway Mobility Solutions, with design-build contractors Dragados Canada and Flatiron Constructors Canada; Lower Mainland Connectors, with contractors BA Blacktop, Janin Atlas and Peter Kiewit Infrastructure Co.; and Pacific Skyway Partners, with American Bridge Co., Fluor Canada and SNC-Lavalin Constructors.