The provincial government is committed to building a Massey Tunnel replacement bridge at any cost. The cost of the project continues to rise, but right now it is $3.5 billion. When it comes to bridges in Metro Vancouver, we know two things. Tolled bridges have a limiting effect on the volume of traffic that use them, and free bridges are beyond congested during peak travel periods.
The Golden Ears Bridge never met its predicted traffic volumes, and is being subsidized by TransLink. The Port Mann Bridge has less traffic on it today, than when the original bridge was in service. Meanwhile, the toll-free Alex Fraser Bridge and Pattullo Bridge are jammed.
The province is proposing that the Massey Tunnel replacement be a tolled crossing. Just like the Port Mann, traffic volumes will drop. If the Port Mann is any indication, building a new bridge might not even be needed. The Massey Tunnel received a seismic safety retrofit in 2006, and is safe for traffic.
Earlier this week, I posted about the 216th Street overpass project. While doing research for that post, I read the Gateway Program Project Definition Report. This is what the Gateway Program report had to say about replacing the Massey Tunnel:
Consideration was given to widening the George Massey Tunnel in conjunction with development of the South Fraser Perimeter Road.
To capture sufficient benefits, twinning the tunnel would also require improvements to other crossings over the North Arm of the Fraser of the Fraser River, such as the Oak Street or Knight Street bridges, or a new crossing to serve projected commuting patterns associated with employment growth in central Burnaby.
$3.5 billion to shift the bottleneck seems like a waste of money to me. It is a well-known fact that you can’t build your way out of congestion, but you can give people ways to get out of congestion.
It would make more sense to toll all major bridges in the region. This would reduce congestion. The revenue generated could be used to invest in public transit, giving people a real way out of congestion. Regional tolling happens to be one of the more preferred ways to fund transit expansion by people living in Metro Vancouver.