Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Massey Crossing Project Update: 6-lanes with bus-only lanes and keeping the old tunnel shortlisted.

Back in 2015, the provincial government which was controller by the BC Liberals announced that they were going to build a $3.5 billion, 10-lane bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel. I was concerned about this project. It would have caused worse congestion on the Alex Fraser Bridge. There were serious geotechnical challenges which likely would have escalated the cost of this bridge project further. The project also did very little to improve public transit.

When the NDP came to power, they paused the project to complete a technical review of it. The review which was released early this year stated that a 10-lane bridge was not required, and that a more modest design could be used.

The province is now moving forward with a rebooted George Massey Crossing Project. Unlike the first version of this project, there appears to be more consultation with local governments. Items that are important to municipalities in our region include enhancing transit, cycling, and walking transportation options. The new Massey Project is putting a priority on these modes of travel.

The project has a “commitment to transit growth; including dedicated [bus] lanes.” It will also include a 3.5 to 4 metre cycling and walking path on both sides of the road.

Options that are currently being considered include:

  • A new 6-lane bridge or tunnel with the existing tunnel being converted to a 2-lanes road for use by transit or local traffic
  • A new 8-lane bridge or tunnel with dedicated transit lanes

Building more than 3-lanes in one direction would simply shift congestion from one area to another. For a perfect case study, just look at the Port Mann Bridge and Highway 1. The modelling for the new Massey Project also shows that more lanes simple cause more traffic. This is called induced demand, and is a well know impact of highway expansion projects.

Updated George Massey Crossing traffic forecasts for 2035 and 2050 based on 4-lane, 6-lane, and 8-lane configuration. Select chart to enlarge.

The next step for the project is to further study the short-listed options to come up with a preferred option.

The lower the lane count, the less a river crossing project costs to build. I’m hopeful that the province will choose a cost-effective option to make sure that funding is available for other transportation project and to reduce the impact of induced demand.

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