Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Provincial document shows Massey Bridge replacement not worth it

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.


Stephen Rees said...

The MoTI has long harboured the desire to build bridges across the North Arm of the Fraser - Boundary to No 8 Road being their favourite. Up until now, the cities of Vancouver and Richmond have managed to defeat this idea. But clearly the massive new proposed bridge to replace the tunnel is part of a bigger plan. And I do not mean the Regional Growth Strategy!

The province is currently trying to persuade people that the proposal is simply about dealing with peak period congestion - and even states that there is no plan to increase port capacity on the Fraser. Which of course is a blatant lie: the plans of the prt are well documented. They include covering much of Richmond's agricultural land in "industrial development". Unlike the plan to build this bridge.

It would be interesting to see the details of the Business Plan but the copy shown to the public during the last EA "consultation" completely blacked out all the data. It is not at all clear if they have learned the lessons of the Port Mann and Golden Ears fiascos.

James Hansen said...

It feels like if the province could have their way, there would be a 10 lane highway from the new bridge right into Vancouver downtown. I shudder at the thought.

A study should be conducted finding out why there is so much traffic through this tunnel, where are all these people commuting from, and then figure out if it's possible to meet that demand through other means, such as passenger rail. $3.5 billion would probably cover or at least get close to covering the cost of a project like that.