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Metro Vancouver’s ambitious plans to replace aging water infrastructure

Construction crews lowered a 4.5-metre-long tunnel-burrowing machine down the 70-metre-deep south portal of Metro Vancouver’s Annacis water tunnel project in Surrey late last month, marking a major milestone in the regional district’s plan to refurbish aging infrastructure.

The $450-million Annacis project is destined to be a 2.3-kilometre-long, 4.5-metre-diameter tunnel some 50 metres under the Fraser River between River Road in Surrey and Quebec Street in New Westminster.

It is the third of five major marine tunnel crossings that Metro is building and something of a mid-point in the regional district’s multi-decade plan to renew, expand and seismically upgrade water distribution systems for a future population expected to approach four million people by 2050.

A major revamp of infrastructure has been in the works since the 1990s to make the system more resilient to earthquakes and, “We are at a point where we do have a lot of projects on the go,” said Murray Gant, a director of project delivery for Metro Vancouver.

“There’s quite a bit of money being spent at the moment just to get these critical crossings replaced,” Gant added.

The Annacis project is one of three major water projects worth about $1.2 billion that Metro Vancouver is constructing, about to complete, or ready to start within a multi-decade $35-billion pipeline of infrastructure projects the regional district wants to build to accommodate growth.

Timing of the Annacis project also coincides with the spike in inflation that Metro Vancouver’s first major tunnelling project didn’t have to contend with, but has raised costs across the economy for both materials and labour

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