The Massey Tunnel Replacement Project is one head-scratcher of a project. While the goal of reducing congestion along the Highway 99 corridor is laudable, the construction of the estimated $3.5 billion bridge won’t in and of itself reduce congestion.
There will be some serous geotechnical challenges with the construction of this bridge, so I’m unsure if the $3.5 billion will be the final price tag. Back in November 2015, I posted about why a tunnel was chosen over a bridge back in 1955.
Among [George Massey’s] arguments in favour of a tunnel instead of a bridge were that the approaches for a bridge would be so long as to be wasteful form a land use point of view, and very expense to build.
Back in 1955, the estimated cost of a bridge was 41% higher than the cost of building a tunnel.
This summer, I found some information in the environmental assessment application for the replacement bridge. The information showed that the new proposed tolled bridge would drive more traffic to the Alex Fraser Bridge. There was some media coverage about this.
Recently, I noticed that there was a new document about the replacement bridge project put on the Environmental Assessment Office’s website titled “Response to information requests regarding the Traffic Assessment for the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project.”
In the memo, the author notes that an increase in traffic on the Alex Fraser Bridge (AFB) “represent traffic diverting from the newly tolled bridge, during evening and weekends, over and above the forecast increase in overall regional traffic levels. In addition, based on the Port Mann experience, diversion from the new bridge to AFB will be primarily during off-peak times, during times when there is available capacity on AFB.”
|Two-way Annual Average and Daily Traffic Volumes at the George Massey Tunnel Crossing and on Adjacent Fraser River Crossings, With and Without the Project. Select table to view.|
The document’s author states that “tolling of the new bridge will result in lower traffic volumes.” The author further acknowledges “the role of the Canada Line in decreasing traffic levels along the Oak Street corridor since its opening.”
It’s no secret that tolling reduces congestion. This is why the regions’ mayors have been calling for a regional tolling strategy. In fact, if all major crossing in the region were tolled, there would be a significant reduction in congestion in Metro Vancouver. It is no secret that building transit also reduces congestion.
Given the facts: a new tolled Massey Replacement Bridge will have less traffic volume on it in 2045 than in 1984, an un-tolled Alex Fraser Bridge will see an increase in traffic volume, and transit and tolling have been shown to reduce congestion, it appears that $3.5 billion would be better invested in improving transit in our region.
At the same time, we need regional tolling or road pricing to reduce congestion. The money raised could be used to maintain our transportation network in Metro Vancouver.