(By Peter van der Velden.)
A letter to all Metro Vancouver mayors.
The time to act is now! Todd Stone has just confirmed Province commitment to the 2017 start for the Fraser River Bridge. The Federal government has not responded to the Metro environmental review request and it looks as though they won’t. The lack of response makes it clear that the Federal government is committed to continue to develop the Pacific Gateway Plan. This can only be achieved with the removal of the Massey tunnel. As such, the Port of Vancouver (POV) is driving this major traffic and transit decision. The result is a bridge that is in the wrong location, achieves little traffic improvement, does not deal with transit and will put more cars on the road.
IS THE BRIDGE REALLY THE ONLY VIABLE ALTERNATIVE?
We DO need to improve the crossing of the Fraser. Accessing the Alex Fraser Bridge can take as long as the Massey Tunnel and is equally problematic. ANY appropriate long range planning would take care of this issue as well as the Oak and Knight Street corridors. This could be done at a fraction of the current estimated cost for the bridge. In previous planning studies this scenario added a bridge between the tunnel and the Alex Fraser and upgraded the Massey tunnel.
This alternative is much more viable for all traffic crossing the Fraser. It would separate the traffic flows that go to Richmond and Vancouver, Burnaby and East Vancouver and New Westminster/Annacis Island. This would greatly improve traffic, especially if the tunnel were twinned as planned. Traffic would move more effectively through existing stress points. As well it would allow for traffic growth by being more efficient. The reason for the present bridge is strictly so that the Massey tunnel can be removed to improve shipping traffic. This is the reason for opposition to the bridge; it isn’t being planned with the communities to serve traffic needs. Mayor Jackson is wrong when she states that the opposition to the bridge is political. Mayor Malcolm Brodie of Richmond is clear. There is no benefit to placing this bridge in this location.
With the proposed bridge, traffic will increase with the ensuing development of Delta. This will put more stress on Oak and Knight Street and the Alex Fraser Bridge. These are finite points that cannot be changed with acceptable costs. As a result another crossing will soon be needed to handle this traffic. If that crossing was built now and the tunnel maintained, we would be planning for the future. The estimated $3.5 billion could cover a lot of Metro Vancouver traffic issues and possibly improve transit at the same time. The proposed bridge does none of this.
The fact is that the bridge is not the answer to our traffic/transit infrastructure needs. POV claims not to be driving the decision for the bridge. If this were true why is the height of the bridge established by the Port and why is the tunnel being removed? These are strictly Port drivers and have nothing to do with traffic, transit or planning for either.
Farm land will be lost with any proposed bridge. Saying there will be a net gain in farmland is irresponsible on Victoria’s part. These losses can be mitigated, but only in dialogue with the affected communities of Richmond and Delta. Dialogue seems of little interest to the current provincial government. Victoria is intent on reducing the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) and has shown little interest in protecting it. If countless public input sessions have been held why is there so much opposition to the bridge? Why is the community of Richmond openly against the bridge? Most attendees will tell you the public sessions were a one way stream of information. The bridge does not serve a community model; it is based on an economic model.
Delta will lose a lot of farmland. Adding four lanes of traffic to reach Delta will convince people to move from Vancouver. This will put enormous pressure on the agricultural land base which is already under attack from POV plans. Every week Robin Silvester is quoted by the press that there is not enough land zoned for industrial purposes.
Farmland is at a premium and prices are rising. This is at least partially due to speculative investment. The need for Industrial and Residential land has brought a surge of price increases to Delta. As a result agricultural land is becoming too expensive to farm. Delta’s farmland is close to the Vancouver market and is located in an unequaled climate zone and it is at peril. Should the bridge be built much of it will be lost to urban sprawl as the Metro area grows.
REAL COST OF PORT DEVELOPMENT
The mayor of Delta supports the bridge and Port development. What has not been discussed is the incredible cost of urban sprawl. It is a known fact that servicing residential development in lower density areas is expensive. This cost will be borne by Delta residents. Not only will Delta lose its agricultural community, the cost of living will continue to rise. This cost only subsidizes development plans for the shipping industry.
From both Victoria and POV, spin appears to rule public relations. We have been -and continue to be- lied to by Victoria and the Federal Crown corporation*. As a result there is no trust. Worst of all is that a $3.5 (+) billion undertaking is to be started without the appropriate planning and input from the communities affected. Victoria and Port representatives continue to try and convince us that all of the expressed concerns have been dealt with. Yet strong opposition remains and the government refuses to delay the timeline.
THE ECONOMY AND THE BRIDGE
Concern has been expressed over the loss of business opportunities should the proposed bridge not be built. Consider this: The second busiest access route to Vancouver will be in upheaval for 3-5 years. This will only be the case if the bridge is built in the same location as the tunnel. If the bridge is built up-river of the tunnel there will be no loss of commerce. Jobs will be created equally by both proposals. The stress during the construction period of the proposed bridge will be much more serious than any experienced presently with repairs to the Patullo Bridge. The construction of the proposed bridge will be a hardship for all commuters and businesses.
Surprisingly, the Tsawwassen first nation supports the bridge. The giant mall being completed on their land stands to lose a lot of business during construction. People will have little interest in driving through a construction zone to the mall. The 1.5 million square feet of retail outlets need clients from the outlying areas to survive.
The proposed bridge is bad for the business community. Travel times through the construction period will be lengthened for all commuters and commerce. Hundreds of truckloads of building materials will block or slow traffic on a daily basis. The bottlenecks at Oak and Knight Street will only get worse as this supply chain moves through these corridors. For all of Vancouver, produce will cost more and will not be locally farmed or nearly as fresh. This in turn will put more trucks on the road.
Once the bridge is built the exodus from Vancouver to more economical housing will put yet more people on the road. Translink has made it clear that until a higher density is reached in this area there will be no increase in transit. As well, valuations and taxes will increase. All of these negative by-products have not been discussed and have been avoided by Victoria as well as Delta.
WHY BUILD THIS BRIDGE?
The decision for the bridge needs to be re-evaluated. Metro Vancouver will not benefit in any way from this incredible outlay of money. All mayors need to condemn this ineffective and wasteful proposal. The Federal government has shown no interest in containing Port Development which hinges on the proposed bridge. The POV Board is not responsive to community needs. The recent Annual General Meeting actually portrayed a board that claimed to be “collaborative”, in touch with and invested in “community”, “environmentally focused” and “sustainable”. People in Richmond would question all of that. Certainly the Board has no real presence in any of the affected communities, especially not Penny Priddy, the community representative. The port appears to be driven by CEO Robin Silvester and his initiatives to industrialize the Fraser. As a result we have a $3.5 billion infrastructure proposal that has little value to the overall well being of Metro Vancouver.
*LIES WE HAVE BEEN TOLD
- There will be a net gain in farmland with the proposed bridge
- We continue to work collaboratively with Metro Vancouver…to ensure this meets the needs of Metro Vancouver residents for generations
- We don’t plan to dredge the Fraser River
- We will not be asking for any funding for Terminal 2 from the Federal Government
- There may be a gain in Biofilm and Sandpiper activity due to Terminal 2
Peter van der Velden, Facilities Management Consultant, Tsawwassen
(This article is by Peter van der Velden, who has contributed several previous articles, including the popular “The $3 billion hoodwink: George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project” of August 2014, and “Bridging Troubled Waters: The Industrialization of the Fraser” in February 2016, and “A Lot of Little Lies” in April 2016. He was one of the first to see through the smoke and see what is going on with this project.)