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In a completely unscientific poll, the Delta Optimist on their website asked readers to vote on whether they were looking forward to the new Massey bridge, which is scheduled to commence construction within the month.Surprisingly  51 per cent of this unscientific poll showed support for a new tunnel, and 17 per cent say that the new bridge is not needed.

With almost all of the approvals granted, site preparation work for the George Massey Tunnel replacement bridge is slated to begin next month. Are you looking forward to the new bridge?

Yes, I can’t wait for the new bridge.

 

33%

No, the new bridge isn’t needed.

 

17%

Add another tunnel instead.

 

51%

As the editor of the Delta Optimist mused in an earlier editorial  that comments to the newspaper were a ratio of five to one against the ten lane bridge, a ratio that would have been even higher if said Liberal government hadn’t provided commentary supportive of the project…Readers have expressed concerns about, in no particular order, trying to build our way out of congestion with more rubber on asphalt, the absence of rapid transit, getting rid of the tunnel to allow bigger ships to ply the Fraser, moving congestion a few kilometres to the north, high tolls and ongoing subsidies when vehicle projections aren’t met, the sudden seismic vulnerability of the tunnel, urban sprawl, lack of bedrock for the bridge foundations, the price tag ballooning, a second tube being a cheaper alternative… The concerns go on and on, but you get the point. “

But as he noted, the pro bridge people have “the George Massey Tunnel, which has been described as the worst traffic bottleneck in the province, has been a bane of commuters for decades…we used to whine about not having a new crossing and now we grumble because we’re getting one.”  He ends noting that the comfort and convenience of 80,000 drivers will be met by the new bridge.

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So how did we end up with a 4.5 billion dollar bridge instead of a neatly twinned tunnel?

Daniel Wood in the Tyee writes that the tunnel had seismic upgrades in 2006 and was deemed to be in good condition and was in fact identical to a tunnel built under Holland’s Maas River 75 years ago that still had another fifty years of life. He then explores an email  that  documents a meeting that occurred in early 2012 with a senior BC Transportation ministry engineer, the CEO  from Surrey Fraser Dock and an engineer that did early seismic investigations on the tunnel. The subject of the meeting was options and considerations around the George Massey Tunnel and a sustainable navigational channel.”

It was a group of environmental activists who call themselves  Fraser Voices who began asking for Freedom of Information requests to seek out the background information about why a tunnel became a bridge.  What they discovered was that shipping lobbies wanted to  open “up the river to huge Panamax vessels and the Fraser shoreline to industrial expansion.”  Shippers had told Ruth Sol of WESTAC, an association of transportation companies, unions and governments that the “George Massey tunnel needs to be replaced — to increase its capacity and the draft above the tunnel so larger ships can access the facilities on the Fraser River.”

It was in September 2013 that the Premier of the Province  announced a new bridge, despite the fact that in 2006 then Minister of Transportation Kevin Stone Falcon had declared that the tunnel was good for another half century  and with a new fast bus lane and the twinning of the Massey Tunnel the congestion challenges at peak hours would be alleviated.

The last word belongs to City of Richmond Councillor Harold Steves. “Despite what Christy Clark says, the reason for the bridge has little to do with removing congestion. A twinned tunnel would solve that. But Port Metro Vancouver doesn’t want a twinned tunnel. It doesn’t want any tunnels. It’s not about congestion. It’s about ships. The bridge has got everything to do with Port Metro Vancouver’s plans to industrialize the Fraser.”

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