It is in the “weird stuff that won’t go away” file-as part of the trinity of the twentieth century approach to things, suburban Delta is home to the huge Port Metro Vancouver proposed expansion onto Class 1 farmland, the building of a mega mall again on Class 1 farmland, and just to round out the trio-a new bridge replacing the handy Massey Tunnel, again taking away farmland for the approaches.
Price Tags has discussed the Massey Bridge at length. There has been some surprise that this bridge is being located again on the sensitive river floodplain, and in an area which has not been identified for increased density by Metro Vancouver.
Three months ago Metro Vancouver mayors rejected the project, because of environmental concerns and fears about the lack of a rigorous assessment process. The Mayor of Delta was the holdout, favouring the 3.5 billion dollar ten lane bridge that would take seven years to build, and come directly into that community.
And the reason for the bridge instead of the twinning of the tunnel keeps changing. Originally we were told the tunnel needed to be replaced to allow for the draft of ocean-going ships to access docks upriver on the Fraser. Then people in the region were told that the Massey Tunnel might collapse in an earthquake. After a solid rebuttal from Doug Massey, son of George Massey for whom the tunnel is named, the reason for the new bridge changed again-now it is to stop bottlenecking traffic.
Thankfully the City of Richmond’s Transportation Department produced a report this week that lays out a number of concerns about the George Massey Tunnel replacement project. As reported in the Richmond News, City Engineer Victor Wei ‘s report states
“there are significant gaps in the assessment of the impacts of the project, omissions of technical analysis as well as unsubstantiated claims of predicted project benefits.”
Sure vehicles will get over the Fraser River quicker, but what happens then? As Mr. Wei noted that the Provincial government “just see the Highway 99 corridor. They don’t seem to care about anything else”.
That is what others have been thinking too. There is little information on how traffic interchanges are being planned, nor what happens when all that free-flowing traffic gets to the four lane Oak Street Bridge. Lastly, Wei notes that the” Ministry has given varying forecasts of traffic for the new bridge. The report states the higher traffic volumes of 115,000 vehicles per day by 2045 are used to justify the need for a new bridge. Meanwhile the bridge can only expect to see about 84,000 vehicles per day by that time, if it is tolled (which it will be). “
The CBC notes that the City of Richmond is forwarding their report to the BC Environmental Assessment Office for review, at the same time as a series of open houses are being held regarding the proposed bridge. The Mayor of Richmond remarked that other cost-effective changes, such as public transit, banning semi-trailer trucks on the bridge at peak times, and (surprise!) building a second tunnel to ease congestion have not been thoughtfully considered.
If you want to have your say about this bridge proposal, there is one more open house scheduled for today. You can find information here from the Environmental Assessment Office of the Provincial Government on how to attend or how to write to get your views known. We need to approach this issue in a sustainable way as if agricultural land, public transportation mobility and the future of our region truly matters.