Late last week, the provincial government issued an Environmental Assessment Certificate for the Massey Tunnel replacement bridge project.
As I posted about earlier, there are two key facts about the project that make me question the urgency to move forward with the project.
The first fact is that the tolled Massey Bridge will cause people to shift to driving over the Alex Fraser Bridge, increasing congestion along an already congested corridor.
The second fact is that the tolled Massey Bridge will result in less people using that highway corridor. In fact, there will be a similar level of traffic volume over the new bridge as went through the tunnel in 1984!
The recently released George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project Assessment Report acknowledges these two facts.
In the assessment report, the shift in traffic from the Highway 99 corridor to the Highway 91 corridor is downplayed:
In the future, the [Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure] expects that some midday, overnight, and weekend traffic would choose to use the Alex Fraser Bridge rather than the new bridge to avoid tolls, although there is available capacity at the Alex Fraser Bridge during these times.
The [Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure] believes that, as demonstrated by the Port Mann Bridge experience, the new [Massey] bridge would attract peak period traffic in both directions, reducing congestion at the Alex Fraser Bridge.
Now the Port Mann Bridge experience shows that the downstream, untolled Pattullo Bridge has not only had an increase in midday, overnight, and weekend traffic, but also longer and more congested peak periods.
TransLink keeps details, publicly available statistics about the Pattullo Bridge. The following graphs show the average weekday traffic volumes across the Pattullo Bridge before tolling was introduce at the Port Mann Bridge during the third week of November in 2012, and during the third week of November in 2014 and 2016.
|Average weekday northbound traffic volume across the Pattullo Bridge. Third week of November 2012, 2014, & 2016. Select graph to enlarge.|
|Average weekday southbound traffic volume across the Pattullo Bridge. Third week of November 2012, 2014, & 2016. Select graph to enlarge.|
The Port Mann Bridge experience has resulted in increased traffic volumes at all times of the day, including peak periods, over the Pattullo Bridge. I would expect to see the same for the Alex Fraser.
The provincial government is going ahead with the Massey Bridge. Without fair, region-wide tolling or increased investment made into public transit, the replacement bridge will just shift congestion from one crossing to another.