It was one of the most prudent decisions of the new Provincial government. Instead of implicitly accepting the proposed ten lane bridge and decommissioning the Massey Tunnel, the new government declared they wanted to know why an overbuilt bridge on the floodplain with the most arable farm land in Canada was the preferred option. They also wanted to figure out why every member of the Mayors’ Council nixed this concept except for Delta, who stood to gain mass 20th century industrialization of the Fraser River if the bridge went ahead.
As reported by the CBC an engineer with experience consulting on public infrastructure projects is the contracted person leading the technical review of the multi billion dollar proposed bridge. Stan Cowdell, the president of Westmar Project Advisors Inc., is expected to report back in the Spring of 2018 with his findings. Mr Cowdell was also involved in the W.R. Bennett floating bridge in Kelowna which was a private sector partnership to design, build, finance and operate the bridge.
Earlier Claire Trevena the Transportation Minister stated that this review would examine whether the ten lane bridge, a smaller crossing, or different tunnel configurations would be the best option. The review will look at the existing tunnel’s lifespan, congestion and safety concerns. All the previously produced information will be reviewed and the need for more technical work may be identified in the course of the work.
The independent technical review is expected to culminate in a report by Spring 2018.
In the “you just can’t make this stuff up” department, double salary dipping Provincial MLA Ian Paton thought he had a very good idea. A newly minted Liberal MLA and also happily continuing the strange conflict of interest of being on Delta City Council, Mr. Paton still is representing Delta’s one hand clapping for the new Massey Bridge. Instead of productively working with the new Provincial government which is overseeing an evaluation of the Massey crossing options, Mr. Paton had the time to go the Massey Tunnel and hammer in some political billboards. Seriously.
Instead of those billboards saying something constructive, those billboards contain one-sided tired 20th century political rhetoric. Those billboards don’t say that a multi-billion dollar overbuilt bridge on the sensitive Fraser River delta is being re-evaluated, that the lack of public process and the lack of buy-in of the Mayor’s Council on the size and the location was a concern. Oh no. They embarrassingly tell drivers that they are stuck in traffic because of the current government. The signs are also placed on property not surprisingly owned by Ron Toigo of White Spot fame, who of course would greatly benefit if his farmland was rezoned industrial due to the location of a ten lane bridge. It’s all so transparent.
As Mike Smyth in The Province observes Andrew Weaver of the Green Party notes what many others are thinking of these billboards: “It’s hilarious. I’ve had dozens of people contacting me to say, ‘Thank you for stopping the reckless path of an unreviewed bridge that was promised out of nowhere by the Liberals.’”
It’s really time to stop thinking of the Massey crossing as a political boondoggle and evaluate it for what it truly is. No one is disputing the need for better, more efficient access across the Fraser River. Bullying tactics don’t work~and future generations living in Metro Vancouver may inherit a prudent crossing that is respectful to the existing Agricultural Land Reserve and sensitive delta conditions, or a ten lane crossing that will speed up the industrialization of the banks of the Fraser River. It’s our choice and we need to take the time to make the right decision for future generations.
You can learn a lot about the previous Provincial government’s Massey Bridge process by looking at how other observers view it. This article from the Windsor Star compares the Gordie Howe International Bridge project connecting the Windsor and Detroit regions to the halted George Massey bridge project in Metro Vancouver. That six lane international bridge is estimated to cost two billion dollars and is a public-private partnership, with a suggested opening for 2022.
A community advisory group member of the Gordie Howe Bridge project noted that the “scuttling” of that bridge could occur without sound financial backing, drawing a comparison to the George Massey bridge which ” was scrapped on the eve of construction despite years of planning, plus $66 million spent on site clearing and other preparatory work.”
While the Windsor article describes the Massey Bridge ten lane crossing as being built to ease metro Vancouver commuter traffic, it also describes the intent as replacing “a crumbling, four-lane tunnel feared to be at risk of collapse in the event of an earthquake”, that had a poor planning process and a lack of support from impacted communities. The article also states that local mayors were critical of the Massey Bridge which would increase congestion by throttling traffic into a four lane road.
Local Member of Parliament Peter Julian (NDP — New Westminster-Burnaby), weighs in calling the Massey Bridge plan “as “back of the napkin” thinking despite the large amount of money spent and preparation work completed.“Maybe it was a large, expensive napkin, but you had 10 lanes going into four lanes,” Julian said Friday. “There was no out (for traffic). It was absurd. It wasn’t well thought out and you had municipalities rejecting the idea.”
Ontario Member of Parliament Brian Masse (NDP — Windsor-West) for the Windsor and Detroit bridge said the two bridge projects appear eerily similar “on the surface,” but in reality are not. “One is an international bridge, the other was a provincial initiative that posed problems for a lot of municipalities which opposed the idea to begin with,” he said. “There seemed to be a lack of consultation, while we had full community consultation as part of a long public process.”
The Massey Tunnel/Bridge Crossing will be re-examined by the Provincial Government, with an expected study completed by late 2018.
One more reason for the Mayor of the Corporation of Delta supporting the Massey Bridge, despite all the other Mayors in Metro Vancouver nixing the project-Delta is getting a new casino! Price Tags Vancouver has previously written about the casino debacle in Delta . This new addition will be located directly east of the Massey Tunnel on the Delta Town and Country Inn site. The British Columbia Licensing Commission (the BCLC) apparently made the decision “after listening to the community and the clear feedback from the Corporation of Delta that the only suitable site on which it would consider a gambling and entertainment facility at this time is the Delta Town and Country Inn.”
The commission hired a third-party consultant that “undertook a detailed analysis of this location utilizing existing player data. This analysis shows that the Delta Town and Country Inn site will capture incremental revenue, with minimal impacts to adjacent gambling facilities in Richmond, Surrey and New Westminster.”
So why is this detrimental? As the Atlantic magazine notes, a Canadian study found that the 75 per cent of casino customers who gamble casually only provide 4 per cent of revenues. “A range of studies reviewed…estimated that between 40 to 60 per cent of casino revenues are earned from problem gamblers…drawn from the ranks of the vulnerable elderly.Half of casino visitors are over age 50, but casinos market themselves to the over 70 and even over 80 market, to whom gambling offers an escape from boredom and loneliness into a hypnotic zone of rapid-fire electronic stimuli.” With more than 15 per cent of the population in Delta over 65 years of age, the new casino will have a captive market driving to the casino’s motordom location.
Meanwhile the Richmond News reports about a theatre group that performs theatrical plays for seniors in Richmond with only one theme-the deleterious impact of gambling. Supported by the “community engagement provider” of the B.C. Responsible and Problem Gambling Program, the plays aim to warn vulnerable and lonely seniors about the danger of gambling.
“We came up with the idea five years ago to deliver meaningful messages to the public, especially seniors, through drama. We found that seniors often have a shorter attention span, so traditional methods like lectures are not very effective on them…Things that happen to older adults might make them a vulnerable group, like retirement from work and bereavement. Also, they have access to pensions and savings, and gambling might be an attractive source of recreation for them.”
The Licensing Commission continues with the party line. “BCLC respects the authority of local governments to choose whether they want a gambling facility in their community. Throughout this process, BCLC is committed to engaging with stakeholders and the public to incorporate their feedback into these plans.”
Delta gets another industry that is not 21st century focused, and certainly not sustainable in any way other than the 10 per cent revenues the Corporation will receive, which will be in the 1.5 to 3 million dollar range. All of this for a business that is all-consuming and only spits out their customers once they have no money.
In truly one of the most bizarre events south of the Fraser River, the Mayor of the Corporation of Delta was invited to speak to the Surrey Board of Trade as part of their 2017 Surrey Environment and Business Awards. Subject? Why the business community must force the Provincial government build a ten lane overbuilt multi-billion dollar bridge which will industrialize the banks of the Fraser River. No mention that most of Delta’s economy is based upon trucking and transshipment, with no diversity into more 21st century businesses. Delta needs the bridge to continue their industrial economic base which is all about motordom.
As quoted in the Delta Optimist “The impacts are not just felt in Delta, but in Surrey, White Rock, Langley, even out in the valley. The replacement of the tunnel with a new bridge will relieve on of the worst traffic highway bottlenecks in Canada and save businesses and commuters millions of dollars lost as a result of congestion, accidents and travel delays” the Mayor said.
To the Surrey business community that might not know that you cannot build a ten lane bridge to solve congestion, the Mayor had an enthusiastic audience. The Mayor also trotted out the Angus Reid survey that showed that the business community and residents supported the bridge. Without comprehensive road widening and new bridges at Oak Street, congestion at the bridge will simply transfer to other areas of Highway 99.
The clearest statement comes from the new Provincial Minister of Transportation Claire Trevena who stated We have talked to mayors who were very concerned that their vision for the Lower Mainland was not being recognized. As minister I think this is a responsible way to be acting when you are talking what will be, no matter what we do, whether it is a bridge, whether it is twinning the tunnel or tunnel and bridge combination, who knows what will come of this, but we are responsible with public money. We want to get this right.”
You can feel the desperation of the Liberal party in this latest incident-someone in the defeated Liberal provincial party came up with a crumpled document that they are sure is from the NDP camp before the Provincial election. Even though it is not on letterhead, or has any identifying signatures or references, the opposition party has pounced on it to try to make a news story. Their story? That the NDP planned to implement the Transportation Plan as approved by the Mayors’ Council which does not include the Massey Bridge.
This of course gives the rookie Delta MLA (who has also not given up his Councillor job in Delta) the chance to rail on about congestion in the tunnel and all those folks inconvenienced by using the tunnel, which of course is all the fault of a new government. The multi billion dollar cost of this proposed bridge is more than the cost of NASA’s Cassini project, which is now sending its last photos from space.
And as the Delta Optimist observed, “The document does not appear to be official, nor confirmed party policy. However, that didn’t stop the Liberals from accusing the government of quietly planning to kill the $3.5 billion project right off the bat despite assurances from Transportation Minister Claire Trevena”.
And the rookie MLA doing the dual job as Delta councillor continues the same rant against any reasonable evaluation of the bridge, and has not demonstrated any ability to work towards the mutual interests of the region, as expressed by the Transportation Plan approved by the metro Mayors’ Council. If anything instead of getting a reasoned rationale approach to working towards mutual interests, this MLA is distancing Delta from the rest of the region in his dual roles.
Expect to see more of this posturing, so reminiscent of the way the last Provincial government treated Metro Vancouver. Here’s to a more rationale, interest based approach that would be helpful to explore the issues and ensure that transportation concerns for the Delta part of the region are addressed.
Back to the south of the Fraser River where the Massey Bridge is getting a serious rethink by the Province, who are evaluating whether a nearly 4 Billion dollar bridge located on the sensitive river delta in the wrong place for regional growth is the right thing to do. As Graeme Wood in the Richmond News reports the Mayor of Richmond Malcolm Brodie expressed gratitude for the pause, saying “The current government appears to be listening to our concerns that we’ve been expressing over and over for the last four to five years.”
Mr. Brodie is hoping that the Province will consider a twinned tunnel to achieve eight driving lanes. Costs for a twinned tunnel or a bridge are similar, but the tunnel will preclude the port from having large ships navigate upriver. A tunnel would also get rid of the huge highway interchange planned for Steveston Highway.
The Minister of Transportation says that there “was not a thorough business case, a thorough look at all the options.” The proposed review will involve the Metro Vancouver mayors and “focus on what level of improvement is needed in the context of regional and provincial planning, growth and vision, as well as which option would be best for the corridor, be it the proposed 10-lane bridge, a smaller bridge or tunnel.”
Meanwhile in Delta the Mayor and Council headed up the “We Need A Bridge” campaign counter to the expressed vote of every other mayor in the region. But residents are starting to notice that their new rookie MLA Ian Paton is serving two roles-he has not given up his position as councillor for the corporation of Delta, and attended the last council meeting via Skype. The next civic election will not happen until October 2018. While Mr Paton continues in his dual roles he is also lashing out at the work stoppage on the bridge, repeating the earthquake in the tunnel safety scenario and reiterating the fact that the tunnel gets congestion. No mention that the congestion, like water, will just plug up closer to Vancouver with a ten lane bridge. You just can’t build your way out of congestion. It doesn’t work like that.
Mr Paton’s refusal to give up his councillor position despite being an MLA brought out a strong reaction from a resident who stated in the local paper “As a taxpayer, it is money well spent to have a by-election and it is unacceptable that Paton continues to draw a salary as councillor at the same time drawing a salary as MLA. Paton quite simply cannot function objectively in the two roles at the same time.”
The practice of dual mandate or as the British call it double jobbing is against the law in many places, but not in British Columbia-or Belgium. You can’t serve as a member of parliament and be a member of the provincial legislature. But you can be a member of the provincial legislature and a municipal councillor. The Province of B.C. did try to enact dual office prohibition legislation but it did not pass a second reading. There is one precedent from twenty years ago when MLA Jenny Kwan also served as a city councillor for a very limited time. But for an emerging municipality like Delta which needs critical thinking about diversifying the economy and energizing new industries, it just makes sense-two heads at two different levels of government are always better than one.
Get a little bit of rain and everyone gets back to business in Vancouver where the The CBC reports on the optimism arising from Greg Moore, the chair of Metro Vancouver and the other cities that comprise this region. Everyone knows that housing affordability and transportation are the two most important factors in every conversation about this region. The relationship with the new NDP government and the Metro Cities has been encouraging so far, in a refreshing type of way.
After dealing with the transportation referendum debacle for Metro Vancouver (which was part of the former premier’s election promises in 2013) the Mayors want to advance the Ten Year Mayors’ Vision they had all agreed upon (except for the Mayor of Delta) . That plan includes increasing rapid transit in the region and replacing the aging Patullo bridge. And that time is now.
With the new Provincial government actually talking to the Mayors and with the multi-billion dollar Massey Bridge (which was unsupported in the region except by the Mayor of Delta) on hold, there are now active talks on working together between the region and the Province to fund the agreed upon transportation initiatives. Instead of the Mayors finding out about the Province’s transportation priorities in the newspaper, Transportation Minister Claire Trevena is following up on her pledge to work directly with the regional municipalities on advancing their agreed upon plan. It was Mayor Mussatto of the City of North Vancouver that said it best-“The (previous) provincial government didn’t really value our input. We didn’t feel like we were playing as equals at the table.”
That appears to have changed, with more open lines of communication and a renewed interest in moving forward with the important task of making this region accessible to everyone. As the Metro Vancouver chair Greg Moore observed about working with the new Provincial government “We have disagreements on different things, but we work through them together. If you’re sitting at the table and working together, although you might have even major disagreements on one topic, you can still work together on other topics.”
It’s a simple and direct approach for these two levels of government to advance transportation and accessibility across the region.
At the end of August Angus Reid conducted a survey of Metro Vancouver residents about their preferences for a new Massey Bridge at the Massey Tunnel crossing on the Fraser River. Remember that this survey was paid for by the Association of Consulting Engineers of B.C. and the B.C. Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association. Both of these organizations would have a lot of people quickly employed if the multi-billion dollar ten lane bridge was to be built. Indeed, that was solidly in the Liberals’ Provincial election platform-build the Massey Bridge, employ 6,000 British Columbians. Don’t ask whether the bridge is in the right place, is sustainable, overbuilt, or a threat to the estuary. It’s about jobs.
Respondents throughout the region were asked the following survey question: “As you may be aware, the provincial government has developed a plan that would see the four-lane Massey Tunnel replaced with a new, higher-capacity bridge over the Fraser River. What are your views on replacing the tunnel with a bridge?”
Now that question has a little bias-it is assuming the replacement of the existing tunnel with a new, shinier, higher performance huge bridge. Respondents were not given any other alternative. The way it was written and said will of course make folks go for the unseen shiny penny, not the existing plodding tunnel which has been so slandered by the Corporation of Delta as antiquated, congested, and dangerous. Never mind the fact that it has performed like a solid workhorse for nearly 60 years and has 80,000 daily vehicles, and that similar designs to this tunnel are still in daily use in Europe. Let’s not consider that the tunnel technology could be part of a hybrid solution of either twinning with a new tunnel or working in concert with a smaller new bridge.
Local press including The Vancouver Sun’s Stephanie Ip reported the survey results, which (of course) suggested that 75 per cent of regional respondents “said they would like to see a higher-capacity bridge built to replace the aging tunnel.” Those results were even collected by political party, showing that ” those who voted for the B.C. Liberals in the spring election were most likely to support the Liberal-launched bridge project, with 90 per cent voicing support. However, 64 per cent of those who voted NDP also support the project.”
And there’s some interesting stuff-only 37 per cent of respondents in Richmond/Delta, the people most impacted by tunnel “congestion” favoured the new bridge. Which gets us back to why this survey was even conducted in the first place-if you are asking folks farther out in the region what they want for an efficient driving experience, of course a new bridge sounds perfect. But for Richmond and Delta drivers, the loss of Class 1 arable farmland, the degradation of the banks of the Fraser River for industrial businesses, and the honking huge size of this multi-billion dollar bridge brings up more questions about the most efficient way to support regional transportation. An overbuilt bridge in the wrong place doesn’t solve congestion. It merely moves it.
Kudos to the current Provincial government for reviewing the billion dollar Massey bridge and working with Metro Vancouver and the Mayors’ Council to figure out what the transportation needs are on a regional basis. Let’s start planning our transit and transportation to ensure that all residents have mobility and accessibility. Let’s ensure the plan at the Massey crossing is truly the best fit, and considers all the options, not just an “either/or” on an overbuilt expensive 20th century bridge.
You would think that a large metropolitan region like Metro Vancouver would have a good relationship with the Provincial government and it would be in everyone’s interest to promote good thoughtful transportation across this region. That has not been in the case in the past, where an overbuilt ten lane bridge was being planned on the unique and sensitive Fraser River delta which also holds the most arable soils in Canada. Quite simply, the building of this bridge would solve “congestion” experienced going through the current George Massey Tunnel, but would move that “congestion” along to other parts of the same system, especially towards Richmond and Vancouver. What this bridge would do is reinforce the 20th century notion of the region’s future growth as being dependent on truck traffic from the Port Metro Vancouver’s Deltaport, and would increase the industrialization of the banks of the Fraser River. Unlike every other port in North America, Port Metro Vancouver does not operate 24 hours a day, and truck traffic is not restricted through the tunnel at peak times. And when a large truck stalls in the tunnel during rush hours, there’s a huge delay, especially if specialized tow equipment needs to be brought in.
CBC reports that the Provincial government is putting the Massey Bridge on hold, and “launching an independent technical review to explore best options going forward.” The current procurement process for building the bridge has also been cancelled. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena states “”We want to look at the different options. There was a sense that not all options were thoroughly examined.”
And here is the best part-in terms of Massey Crossing options, “We want one that will get the approval of not just the engineers, but people who live and work in the region.”
This major rethink on the tunnel replacement was not in the NDP’s campaign prior to the provincial election, but does recognize the importance of working with the region, not just industrial and commercial interests on regional transportation infrastructure. Working together and ensuring all interests are represented enables everyone to move towards good connected regional transportation.
Back to the south side of the Fraser River where the B.C. Hydro corporation, a crown agency is already estimating the logistics should the multi-billion dollar Massey Bridge project be cancelled. Because of the previous government’s single-mindedness in pushing for the creation of this behemoth of a bridge, the two transmission lines nestled in the tunnel need to be moved to overhead lines. And doing that kind of work is not cheap.
As reported in the Vancouver Sun by Rob Shaw and Jennifer Saltman, a hydro spokesperson stated: “We’ve informed our contractors that, as a precaution, we’re preparing for the possibility of having to suspend the currently scheduled construction work and have asked for them to identify costs related to suspending their work.” Imagine-it was going to cost Hydro $76 million dollars to move the two 230,000-volt transmission lines. That included temporary housing of the transmission line, creating stable footings, preparing foundations, and of course building access to the line on either side of the new bridge.
The new NDP Transportation Minister Claire Trevena has met with Delta and Richmond mayors and with the chair of the Metro Vancouver board. You can well imagine that conversation, where all the mayors except the mayor of Delta are against this huge ten lane bridge being built on the sensitive Fraser River delta. There are other transportation projects such as the Patullo Bridge that need to be funded. But Delta is still advocating for their bridge to support future plans of industrialization along the Fraser River and bring those tax dollars into Delta’s coffers. Delta has not yet diversified their industrial base into more sustainable operations.
Costs to date for the bridge are $70 million for the pre construction work and the public consultation. There are three proposals to build the bridge, and those are going to be evaluated in late Fall. Each of the unsuccessful bidders are guaranteed a two million dollar consolation payment. As the Vancouver Sun notes-will the payout be to two bidders, or will the payout be to all three? There are already some hints in that Premier John Horgan has made it clear that the Massey bridge is NOT a priority for the Metro Mayors’ Council who have other transportation objectives.
In a previous Price Tags Vancouver we’ve addressed the fact you just can’t build your way out of congestion-doing so just creates more congestion. And that is evident in this statement from Transportation Minister Claire Trevena: “We acknowledge there is a big problem of congestion throughout the (Highway) 99 corridor, but we want to find the best solution and that’s what we’ve been doing is taking our time, looking at what has gone forward, what the alternatives are and working very closely with the mayors for the future.” I am betting the best solution does not include a multi-billion dollar ten lane Massey bridge that reinforces the ideals of twentieth century motordom, where the right to move freely in a single occupant vehicle car precedes environmental and sustainability concerns for the sensitive Fraser River delta.
Back to the south side of the Fraser River where there is now a meaty discussion occurring about the Massey Tunnel replacement, and questions arising on how to manage “congestion” in the tunnel prior to any new tunnel replacement. A robust commenter in the Delta Optimist points out that they “regularly use the tunnel in both directions at various times of the day and am never delayed more than a few seconds. Most of the time I barely have to slow down before heading into the tunnel.”How? This individual travels by “motorcycle, taking the #601 bus (public transit is a wonderful thing) or driving with one or more companions. That means I get to use the HOV lane, travel at reasonable speed and merge seamlessly into traffic heading under the river. In case you are not familiar with the term, HOV stands for “high occupancy vehicle.”
HOV was introduced in Canada in Metro Vancouver and Toronto in the early 1990s. In 2010 there were 150 kilometers of HOV lanes in Canada, with 130 kilometers of arterial HOV lanes. They are a great invention and are underused in the Massey Tunnel context. As the Delta Optimist writer states: It is true that during rush hours one can’t help but notice a significant back-up of cars and trucks not using the HOV lane. That is because they are what you might call “low occupancy vehicles” – one person taking up an inordinate amount of road space and burning an unconscionable amount of climate-destroying fossil fuel. This is exactly what we need to discourage: the most inefficient form of human transportation ever created. First, by not facilitating it with irresponsible highway and bridge expansion and secondly by creating efficient and user-friendly public transit alternatives.”
Instead of the Corporation of Delta continues their campaign for a new bridge with no support from other Mayors or the Metro Vancouver region, they could be encouraging and organizing ride share for their citizens, and running campaigns to increase bus usage. This way the municipality could decrease tunnel congestion by promoting ways to have fewer vehicles through the tunnel, and could actively encourage that large truck traffic not use the tunnel during “peak times”. One simple solution is to run Port Metro Vancouver’s port 24 hours a day like every port in North America to alleviate truck and tunnel congestion, and limit trucks in the tunnel at peak hours.
Planetizen writer James Brasuel reviews the futility of widening freeways to lessen congestion, and this also applies to the proposed ten lane Massey Bridge- “the idea of widening freeways to lessen congestion has been “thoroughly debunked…[e]conomists now talk about the ‘Fundamental Law of Road Congestion’–each incremental increase in highway capacity generates a proportionate increase in traffic, with the effect that congestion quickly rebounds to previous levels–accompanied by more sprawl, longer trips and increased pollution.”
You can’t build your way out of congestion. As Lewis Mumford said, ‘No one, it seems pays heed to our own grim experience, which is that the more facilities that are provided for the motor car, the more cars appear”. And that was written 64 years ago.
Back the south of the Fraser River where the Corporation of Delta continues the sound of one set of hands clapping for a bridge while the rest of the regions’ mayors and Metro Vancouver ask for a rethink of the current Massey Tunnel and a review of where the transportation priorities of this region really are.
It was one thing to set up a reader board at the Massey Tunnel that reads that “WE NEED A BRIDGE” and that asks people to go to a “WE NEED A BRIDGE” website which magically just goes to the Corporation of Delta’s website. It’s another thing to actually post a video that contains all the one sided arguments for a ten lane bridge projected to cost nearly 4 billion dollars (carrying costs way exceed this amount) that was originally put forward and projected by the previous Provincial liberal government. Surprisingly there is an image of trees, people walking and a wheelchair in the video suggesting that everyone will be able to access this bridge by walking or biking.
The arguments trotted out in the video are the same-old-accidents, congestion, potential of an earthquake, and the fact that despite what outside experts are saying, the ten lane bridge is actually more sustainable and better for the environment than the tunnel. No mention of the degradation and industralization of the banks of the Fraser River, the taking of substantial arable farmland, or the fact this bridge is based upon a 20th century view of motordom and single occupancy cars.
Nothing new here, except the marked inability to view the whole comprehensive transportation and transit picture of the region which does not just include this one sided view. Let’s hope for a more realistic examination by the Province very soon. Surely there is a reason that the rest of the region and Metro Vancouver has asked for a solid review of all materials and a rethink.
In the same way that on-line shopping trends and changing retail tastes are taking a bite out of the stand-alone shopping mall, there are other industries that will be similarly impacted-most notably for Metro Vancouver, the Port of Vancouver’s shipping. As reported in Business in Vancouver grain shipments and containerized cargo has had an increase of four per cent versus the same period of time last year, but the way cargo is managed is drastically morphing.
The challenge for the Port and other ports in North America is the tremendous sea change in how global freight is moved, and also how that freight is handled. “In its 2017 Port, Airport and Global Infrastructure seaport outlook for North America, real estate and investment management firm Jones Lang Lasalle lists five trends to watch in the freight and logistics services arena. Among the five are bigger ships and bigger shipping line alliances. Both will place enormous pressure on port cargo efficiency and infrastructure because they will concentrate the number of container ship dockings in larger vessels at fewer ports.”
This is going to require efficient loading and distribution centres, which means more industrial land beside the port for distribution centres, similar to the logistics centre on the Tsawwassen First Nations land besides Delta port. Metro Vancouver’s very low vacancy rate of 2.7 per cent for industrial land has meant that commercial real estate groups are looking longingly at land in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) as the way to procure property for distribution centres. The Port of Vancouver has also been optioning agricultural land in the ALR for potential industrial expansion, using senior government status to option agricultural land at values far more than property owners can achieve selling for agricultural use. And the Port is not looking for a tiny bit of agricultural turf-as previously reported in the Vancouver Sun Port Metro Vancouver’s land use plan is looking for 930 hectares of space, “more than 10 times what the port now has in reserve.”
The Port already owns about 1,457 hectares of land of which only about 81 acres, the Gilmore Farm in Richmond is undeveloped. While the Port is renewing its farming leases on the land, the City of Richmond worries that this agricultural land will soon be transferred into Port industrial usage.
It’s an interesting conundrum-how do you maintain access to the most arable farmland in Canada and make it so that farmers can own it and farm it? How do you restrain McMansions from usurping this land as private estates? And how do you address the fact that the Port can claim “higher authority” as a federal governmental body and pay off agricultural land owners with much higher values than that received on the farm land market? And is the insatiable appetite of the port for stockpiling goods and distributing them going to remain the same in a time of e-commerce and disruptive technology?
Port Metro Vancouver’s CEO has said “Without suitable land, we will not be able to deliver economic growth to support the growing population. And without careful planning, we will not be able to make best use of the land we manage.”
It’s just the story that keeps on giving. As reported on The Indo Canadian voiceonline, the Corporation of Delta, the Mayor, Council and the Chief Executive Officer want their Massey Bridge and on the August 14 council meeting went through how to decommission the Massey Tunnel. You just can’t make this stuff up. Despite the fact every other municipality in Metro Vancouver has said no to this ten lane overbuilt bridge on the best farmland in Canada, Tsawwassen soldiers on with what they believe is good for themselves-and the region.
Firstly to build up the business case, Delta staff once again reviewed the safety issues in the George Massey Tunnel “including electrical system deficits, deteriorating concrete, damage to sprinkler system, and the ageing ventilation system”. And then the discussion moved to how to get rid of the tunnel, including “potentially flooding the tunnel once the new bridge is open. Not only would this option be less expensive and less environmentally harmful than removing the tunnel, it also addresses concerns related to dredging the Fraser River to accommodate larger ships.” Um-but we were just told by the Liberals pre-election that there was no need for deeper draft for ships, and that was not a reason for not using the tunnel model. But never mind. Of course the 145 technical and scientific studies were again trotted out for reference-but anyone looking at the website for all of these items will have noticed that documents came and went on the website a bit like the shell game.
Meanwhile a letter in the Delta Optimist suggests that the tunnel is a nightmare because of ” insufficient traffic management. Restrict vehicles with less than four occupants to not travel during rush hour. That will cause pooling of passengers and drivers and reduce traffic to a trickle.”
Mr. Abe Froese actually worked on the George Massey Tunnel in 1955, and had personal experience with the lack of solid river base noting “It is not comforting to me to think of building a $4.5 billion bridge on a sand base. I think I will shake in my boots if I have to cross it and it’s a long way down if an earthquake hits. I side with Doug Massey in his proposal that global tunnel experts be consulted as they can share their expert knowledge that is most important at this time to allow the public access to vital information required and to enable those in charge to make their decisions -a decision based on facts and not emotional feelings.”
Mr. Froese ends his letter with these words: “There is nothing wrong with the George Massey Tunnel that a little renovation and better lighting will not fix to allow traffic through for many years to come.”
As reported by CNN Money nearly 25 per cent of all shopping malls in the United States will be closing within five years. While shopping malls used to serve as vending and social places, consumerism seems to be in decline generally, and certainly accelerated with the rise of online stores like Amazon.
As Credit Suisse reports, the United States undertook phenomenal mall development in fifty years, from 300 enclosed malls in 1970 to 1,211 today. Credit Suisse suggests there is a retail bubble with too many stores being built, and point out that foot traffic at malls has been steadily declining for years. While online sales of consumer good is 17 per cent in the United States today, it is expected to double to 35 per cent by 2030. That decline in mall sales is borne out by the fact that “Department stores have lost more jobs than coal mines”.
And the number of mall anchor stores closing in the United States is sobering-Sears is closing 150 Sears and Kmart branded stores, while JCPenny is closing 138 stores. “Credit Suisse estimates that a record 8,600 stores will close this year alone. That’s far more than the record 6,200 stores that closed in 2008, the first year of the Great Recession”. Even Home Depot is afraid that “Amazonification” will cut into their business, with stock down 3 per cent despite high earnings.
Despite these numbers, the CEO of the International Centre of Shopping Centres (yes it actually exists) is upbeat about the future, saying that occupancy rates are at 93 per cent and the store closures represent a small percentage of the square footage occupied. And, the CEO still sees the enclosed mall as a “social gathering place”, despite the renewed interest and renaissance of main street store front retail.
Meanwhile Ivanhoe Cambridge which owns and manages Tsawwassen Mills, the 1.2 million square foot mall near Tsawwassen as well as CrossIron Mills Mall near Calgary and Vaughan Mills near Toronto has released some preliminary figures on performance. It seems that Tsawwassen Mills Mall is making $275 per commercial retail unit square foot compared to $660 per square foot in Calgary and $792 per square foot in Toronto. The overall gross sales volume is also very low when compared to the two other Mega Mills Malls in the portfolio. Is this due to the mall’s newness, its location, or are Metro Vancouver residents early adapters to online consumerism?
From CBC via Price Tags Editor Ken Ohrn is the notification that “four of the five members of the Transportation Investment Corporation board, which oversees B.C.’s Port Mann Bridge, have been removed by the provincial government.”
That’s right- “In an Order In Council formally approved on Friday, chair Daniel Doyle and directors Anne Stewart, Clifford Neufeld and former finance minister Colin Hansen had their appointments rescinded.” One person remains, Irene Kerr who is the CEO of TI Corp and will be on the board until the end of 2018. TI Corp is the governmental creation that managed the construction of the bridge and the subsequent tolling on this and the Golden Ears Bridge.
While the Port Mann is not making money as projected from tolls, it is still projected to pay for itself . The 2017 B.C. budget suggested that losses of $88 million dollars in 2017 and $90 million dollars in 2018 are expected. The TI Corp was also to provide “support” for the implementation of the ‘George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project-when will he NDP government be announcing what they are doing with that vast overbuilt project?
Meanwhile south of the Fraser City of Richmond Councillor Carol Day supports the transit idea of the Mayor of Delta who was pleading for a ten lane bridge, and for a rapid transit connection to get that bridge. Councillor Day calls the refusal of the Mayors’ Council to consider rapid transit to Delta the “special sort of short sightedness that is iconic of Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. This creates a piecemeal approach to infrastructure that approves individual projects in isolation of one another without sufficient consideration of the future.”
Councillor Day further notes: “Mayor Jackson is absolutely right in saying that we have to think about building capacity for 75 years into the future rather than merely extending existing transit lines. We will be able to plan out a much more efficient transit network if all current and potential projects support each other and a unified vision.”
It is going to be an interesting time as the new Provincial government reviews and unravels the truths and myths about the Massey Tunnel crossing, and evaluates what will work best for the Fraser River crossing in Delta-where, how, and why.
Back to the south side of the Fraser River where positional information on the Massey Tunnel and Bridge appears daily. The latest is reported in the Delta Optimist where the Mayor of Delta has added another reason for the support of an overbuilt bridge on the sensitive Fraser River delta-it could have light rapid transit. But, just like the Mayors’ Council’s lack of support for this behemoth of a bridge, the rest of Metro Vancouver nixed that.
Here’s what the Delta Mayor said: “I’ve been trying to press this with the mayors for a long time in that it makes sense to take the Canada Line and run it south, over a bridge, and it’s meant to do that, accommodates that. The idea being maybe go out to the ferry terminal, with stops in Ladner and Tsawwassen. Most importantly, it would go through all the southern area, as opposed to the northern area where the Expo Line goes through Surrey”.
“We have to look ahead 75 years. It’s a great way to connect communities. I was pretty much poo pooed because they said they want everything on the table. They want, for instance, the Evergreen Line extended. They don’t want even a planning concept forward for a line that will pick up hundreds of thousands of people through that great burgeoning area of Surrey that travel by car everywhere because there’s no option”.
So why after the support of the massive ten lane bridge is the Mayor of Delta so bullish on rapid transit? Because if a bridge connecting Delta and Richmond is built, “LRT could run down the middle of the freeway”.
Meanwhile City of Richmond Councillor Harold Steves stated: “The 10 lane bridge is not designed for LRT. Under FOI (freedom of information) Richmond received 1400 pages of bridge plans and a special report on LRT on May 8th. The LRT report states that because of the scattered population LRT would not have enough ridership to warrant putting LRT on the bridge. That would certainly be even more true with a 10 lane bridge.”
Richmond Councillor Steves is getting a little miffed at the Corporation of Delta’s continued one side clamouring for a bridge. Even the CTV is reporting on the “fake news” Delta is propagating with their $35,000 budget going towards advertising their point of view on newspapers and online. They have even bought the domain “weneedabridge.ca” to garner support for their project. Full page newspaper ads tell readers that “the existing tunnel cannot be sufficiently seismically upgraded,” and would not be “physically capable of withstanding a moderate to severe earthquake.”
“This ad is a really great example of fake news. They’ve taken facts that aren’t in context and put them together to tell us something that isn’t real, Councillor Harold Steves said.”
Planner and thinker Eric Doherty has written an opinion piece in the Vancouver Sun
and provides a historical context on why “urban highway expansion must be the last resort, not the default option” and why projects like the Massey Tunnel Replacement need to be rethought. Despite pressure to further expand the road network, in the 1970’s Premier Dave Barrett and his cabinet ingeniously supported the “SeaBus, still one of the best-loved parts of Greater Vancouver’s transit system. Freeways never flattened Chinatown or cut off the West End from the waterfront…”
Today the thought of a third road crossing to the North Shore is not seen as a priority, and as Eric notes the SeaBus was an inexpensive option instead of a freeway bridge or tunnel. Barrett also was instrumental in the building of the region’s rapid transit and light rail, using the right of ways established by the old interurban railway. And surprisingly, he had envisioned a light rail tunnel to be built beside the Massey Tunnel to serve South Delta and Tsawwassen”.
We forget how transformative transit over freeways was in the 1970’s. The new Premier Horgan “sides with the other 20 Metro Vancouver mayors who oppose the Massey Bridge, and favour funding the rapid-transit lines in the regional transportation plan instead”. It’s telling that “Only one mayor supports defeated premier Christy Clark’s multibillion-dollar plan to build a 10-lane freeway bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel”.
Eric also reminds us that the “B.C. Liberals once proposed to replace their Massey Tunnel freeway expansion plan with bus lanes and rapid bus. In 2009, then-Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon told the Richmond Review that the bus lanes and tunnel upgrades would be sufficient “for easily another 50 years.” The B.C. Liberals built some of the bus lanes, but cut back on bus service through the tunnel instead of providing the frequent, rapid-bus service they promised”.
Going forward Eric sees the importance of enhanced and increased bus service through the Massey Tunnel and bus lanes connecting Richmond’s Canada Line as necessary. “Rail transit to Ladner and Tsawwassen, and to the North Shore, may be worthwhile next steps — but buses and SeaBuses work. The much bigger step Horgan needs to take is to reorient transportation priorities across B.C. to reduce the climate pollution that is fuelling ever more destructive wildfires and floods. The B.C. NDP promises to slash greenhouse gas pollution from transportation by 30 per cent in only 13 years, and the federal-provincial Climate Framework commits B.C. to shift infrastructure spending from road expansion to transit to fulfil Canada’s Paris climate commitments”.
From the Daily Scot, Scot Bathgate informs us that the City of Richmond has officially asked the Province of B.C. to cancel the Massey Bridge project. As reported by the CBC the Mayor of Richmond is sure that no ten lane bridge is needed. Of course the Mayor of Delta is still talking about congestion and bottlenecks and the need for a bridge, using doomsday logic to scare users out of the tunnel.
Add in the Provincial Green Party and leader Andrew Weaver who has already stated that there probably won’t be a Massey Bridge as a priority.