From Business in Vancouver:

Massey

The environmental review process for the $3.5 billion George Massey tunnel replacement project is now officially underway.  The BC Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) has scheduled public open houses , starting in mid-August as part of a 60-day public comment period. The first open house takes place in Delta August 17, followed by one in Richmond September 13 and another open house in Delta September 14. …

The majority of Richmond city council is opposed to the project and wants to keep the tunnel. Most mayors with Metro Vancouver are also opposed to the project.

Delta Mayor Louise Jackson is among the only mayors on Metro Vancouver who supports the tunnel’s replacement. …

Vancouver’s business community is generally in favour of the project. The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade says the Highway 99 south corridor is “one of the most important highway corridors in British Columbia.” Highway 99 south connects the Lower Mainland to the U.S. border, BC Ferries’ Tsawwassen terminal and the Deltaport container terminal. …

According to the B.C. government, the new 10-lane bridge would shave 30 minutes off the commute of those who currently use the tunnel every day to get in and out of Vancouver.

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Is there really any doubt that this review will approve the bridge with perhaps some cautionary notes?

More valuable would be a review of the bridge’s rationale, since it came basically from nowhere – certainly not in any plan, regional or provincial.

And then: what will be the impacts on regional transportation as a whole (not just the Highway 99 corridor) and the likely land-use impacts.  (Bridges have region-shaping consequences: The Oak Street Bridge construction in 1957 led, two years later, to the rezoning of Richmond as a bedroom suburb of Vancouver.  The first Port Mann Bridge in 1964 had even greater impacts on Surrey.)

Ultimately, the most important question is this: what is the Province’s vision for Metro Vancouver? Is the Fraser Delta to be industrialized?  What energy projects will be facilitated?  How is it expected that the Port will expand?

Is the transportation network for the region still to be car- and truck-dominated, with the minimum transit system the region can fund through referendum?

What are the next projects anticipated by the Ministry?  Once Oak Street is further congested, will it be widened or replaced?  Will there be another bridge at Boundary Road?  Will tunnels be designed to handle the congestion on the arterials in Vancouver.  (And if you think cross-city tunnels are unrealistic, check out Brisbane.)

Though the Massey will be one of the most gigantic bridges to be constructed in North America, is it only one piece of a more extensive road network for the region to handle the next million – one that will keep us car-dependent and cost many times more than the transit system that is one of the foundations of the regional plan?

The critical questions that must be addressed in any review of the Massey replacement are the ones that won’t even be asked.