Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Review of the Massey Bridge project suggests tunnel as solution

George Massey Tunnel

In 2015, I posted about the Massey Tunnel and how back in 1955 they decided to build a tunnel and not a bridge due to cost and technical challenges. I posted a year later that building a proposed tolled bridge would have actually ended up increasing congestion on the Alex Fraser Bridge. I questioned if building a bridge was a good solution to the challenge of crossing the Fraser River along Highway 99.

One of the first things that the current NDP government did when they came to power was put a pause on the Massey Tunnel replacement project, and initiated an independent technical review. This independent review was released late last year.

The independent review found that the “province should re-examine the project needs and functional criteria”. One of the items that the independent review brought to light is that a new tunnel crossing to supplement the existing tunnel would be “feasible and may result increased benefits and cost savings in comparison to a new bridge.”

It seems like the original reason for building a tunnel, the cost, is just as valid today as it was in 1955.

One of the original justifications for building a bridge was that the current tunnel was “end-of-life” due to it not being able to meet modern seismic standards. The independent review found that “retrofitting the tunnel is feasible and likely cost competitive with a bridge.”

The review did note that there was an obvious need to increase the capacity in the non-peak direction as it is currently one lane, but found increasing the capacity from the current 4 to 10 lanes as proposed with the bridge project was not required. The wider a crossing is, the more expensive it is to build.

Overall, the review found that a new comprehensive feasibility study needs to be completed that would consider other options for a new or renewed Fraser River crossing for Highway 99.

The Mayors’ Council will be meeting tomorrow, and they will be receiving a report on the Massey Tunnel replacement project. TransLink is in the processing of examining the independent review and will be reporting back to the Mayors’ Council about its recommendations at a future meeting. TransLink’s review will look at the use of demand management measures such as tolling, transit, active transportation, goods movement, and people movement.

There is a clear need to upgrade the river crossing for Highway 99, though a $3.5+ billion bridge is likely not the best solution. It seems like a combination of upgrading the current Massey Tunnel and adding a second tunnel might be a better option when all is considered. It will be interesting to see what the province’s next steps will be.

1 comment:

Tim said...

2 of the lanes on the 10 lane bridge were "climbing" lanes. Clearly with a tunnel climbing lanes are not required. There is a clear need to have a new connection for walking and cycling. Cycling and walking in a tunnel is certainly possible and other places in the world this does happen.