Public opposition to the replacement of the George Massey Tunnel with a $3.5 billion bridge has been building steadily since the project was first unveiled.
Hundreds of people voiced their concerns about plans to replace the Massey Tunnel with a bridge over the Fraser River during the 30 day commenting period conducted by the BC Environmental Assessment Office which ended on February 15.
Since then, Metro Vancouver has called for a Federal Environmental Assessment of the proposal and the city of Richmond opposes the building of the bridge.
Use the form at right to continue to ask the Environment Minister to order a Federal EA of this proposal. We’ll add your comments to the public record and send copies to key elected representatives and the project proponent.
This is an important opportunity to raise key issues about this project, including:
- Does the tunnel really need to be replaced? What are the other options?
- Who should pay for this new bridge? Industrial users of the Fraser River? The Port Authority? BC taxpayers?
- What impact will a new bridge have on traffic and urban development?
- What impact will a new bridge have on fossil fuel exports on the Fraser River?
- Shouldn’t this project warrant a Federal review and not an assessment by the proponent itself?
The George Massey Tunnel was modeled on the Maastunnel in the Netherlands which was built 20 years earlier. Instead of replacing their tunnel with a bridge, the government of the Netherlands is currently upgrading their tunnel at a cost of $262 million Euros – about $420 million Canadian dollars. In comparison, a new bridge over the Fraser River is expected to cost at least $3.5 Billion dollars.
Is a new bridge over the Fraser River the best place to spend our limited public infrastructure dollars? Can we upgrade the Massey Tunnel instead and spend the money saved on other projects, like public transit?
The pressure to allow bigger ocean going vessels onto the Lower Fraser River has been growing for years, and container truck traffic to and from Deltaport will only increase in the future if Roberts Bank Terminal Two is built. Right now the Massey Tunnel keeps deeper draft (and heavily loaded) vessels off the river and limits how many trucks can travel to and from the Port through our communities.
The BC government says that the the bridge is being built to benefit commuters, but the Port and industrial users of the Fraser River are clearly going to benefit if this project goes ahead. They should have to pay for a big portion of the cost of this bridge. Here are some ideas on how that could happen:
- If cars have to pay a toll to go over the bridge, deep draft ocean going vessels should have to pay a significant toll each time they go under it. After all, they will benefit from the deeper draft in the river once the tunnel is removed.
- Every container that passes over the bridge going to or from DeltaPort should be charged a transportation improvement fee. Vancouver International Airport collects improvement fees for new infrastructure, and the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority has done the same for Gateway Infrastructure. The Port should collect a fee for container traffic use of the new bridge and hand it over to the province.
- Every tonne of coal, LNG or jet fuel that passes under the new bridge should be charged a similar transportation improvement fee — collected by the Port, and handed over to the province.
By keeping deeper draft vessels off the river, the Massey Tunnel has been a check on industrialization of the Lower Fraser.
Tearing out the tunnel will allow fully loaded coal freighters to travel to and from Fraser Surrey Docks. It could mean bigger LNG carriers loading at the proposed Wespac-Fortis LNG terminal in Delta. What other fossil fuel export proposals will come forward once the tunnel is gone? How much development on the river will be enough? How will we manage impacts on salmon, killer whales and other sensitive marine life?
Before the province rushes ahead with this proposal, we need to develop a comprehensive vision for the future of of the Lower Fraser that guides development and protects this important ecological lifeline.
The existing Massey Tunnel represents a safety valve that keeps growth under control in our region. Yes, rush hour congestion in the tunnel is a problem that needs to be solved. But replacing the tunnel with an expensive ten lane bridge will just shift that congestion problem somewhere else — likely to the Oak Street Bridge further north. We need a comprehensive plan for regional transportation. Instead, the BC government creates obstacles to securing long term regional transit funding and rushes ahead with an expensive bridge replacement project that benefits industrial interests and will likely cause as many problem as it solves.
Removing the tunnel will encourage development — including further residential development south of the Fraser River and additional big box retail development near the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal. Eventually, new development will lead to new, higher levels of traffic. As regional planners have known for some time, we simply can’t build our way out of congestion.
The short term benefits of a new ten lane bridge are not worth the long term costs of paved-over farmland and urban sprawl that this development will bring to our region.