Response challenges Chambers of Commerce opinion (Vancouver Sun) on Massey Tunnel replacement bridge

Gov BC image of bridge replacing George Massey Tunnel, from YouTubeMetroVanWatch has received this response from Peter van der Velden to “Opinion: Need Massey Tunnel replacement now” in the Vancouver Sun on July 6, 2016. It, he challenges many statements made and positions taken by the Chambers of Commerce. New: related references added at the bottom.



On Wednesday July 6, the Vancouver Sun carried a sizeable article from the Chambers of Commerce for Vancouver, Richmond and Delta in support of the Massey tunnel replacement bridge.

The Chambers suggest there is a lot of community support for the bridge. As you may know, the farm communities of Richmond and Delta are dead set against the bridge as are a number of environmental groups, the Richmond council, the Richmond Community Coalition and the Board of Metro Vancouver. All are opposed to the bridge for compelling reasons.

Mayor Jackson of Delta is the only mayor on the Metro board that supports the bridge. She believes the other mayors would prefer to see benefit to their communities rather than benefits to the larger region.  The reason she is the only Mayor to support the bridge is that the bridge really only benefits the commuters from south of the Fraser. Communities like Delta. It does so at the cost of the Metro region by putting more traffic and commerce on the roads that lead to highway 99. The ensuing stress this traffic will place on the Oak and Knight Street corridors will wreak havoc on Metro traffic infrastructure.

The business community has been convinced by Port Metro that the bridge is in their best interest. What hasn’t been brought to their attention is that the bridge is not necessarily the best alternative for the region. Building this bridge in the same location as the tunnel will wreak havoc on the second busiest point of entry into Vancouver. This will cost business, tourism and the economy countless millions of dollars as traffic (and commercial goods) get tied up in traffic for a period of 3-5 years. Any proposal that could avoid this traffic nightmare would be an improvement for this reason alone.

Any business interest that relies on this corridor for their income will be affected. During the construction period the tunnel could be shut down to traffic. Traffic on the Alex Fraser Bridge and Marine Drive would come to a standstill.

Lastly, how can any organization, let alone a chamber of commerce support a project of this magnitude without a definite budget, without a clear business plan or without real community support?

The article states how important the Fraser crossing is to “Canada’s Pacific Gateway”. And that the Gateway is of “National Economic Importance”. The underlying issue is that the removal of the Massey Tunnel is the primary objective behind the construction of the bridge. It is common knowledge that the Port of Vancouver wants to make the Fraser Surrey Docks a deep sea port. The only way this can be achieved is by the removal of the tunnel. The implication is that our National Economic well being is more important than traffic infrastructure needs of the Metro area.

As a result the Metro Board is forced by the two senior levels of governments into the position of having to oppose this project. That the Chambers feel compelled to add an opinion opposed to Metro would be acceptable if it were based on fact. However, the article is riddled with a number of inaccuracies that need to be corrected:

Chambers: The tunnel is nearing the end of its service life. 

Response: A sister tunnel exists in Holland that was completed in 1942. It is seventeen years older than the Massey and is considered to have a life span of at least 50 more years. How is it that the Massey tunnel is considered to be “nearing the end of its life”? No engineering study has been done to reach this conclusion.

Chambers: The tunnel does not meet current seismic standards; it would “be catastrophic in the event of a significant earthquake.”

Response: In case of a catastrophic earthquake the road systems leading to and from the Massey tunnel would fail, likely before the tunnel fails. $20 Million was spent to achieve an acceptable seismic standard in 2006. As well, a “Shakeproof” system was installed at this time. This system is capable of shutting the tunnel down if there is any sign of seismic activity in the area.

Chambers: The tunnel is operating beyond its capacity for upwards of 13 hours a day.

Response: The hours of maximum capacity per day is probably much closer to half that figure. The concentrations of traffic are obviously during the rush hours. At any other time during the day the tunnel flow is no worse than that of the Alex Fraser Bridge.

Chambers: After thorough due diligence our organizations endorsed a new bridge to replace the tunnel.

– How can the Chambers advocate any endeavor with no viable business plan? How can such a plan be viewed with “thorough due diligence”? How can any business -let alone the Chamber of Commerce-advocate an unqualified business proposal?
-Phase 2 of the public consultation process was very limited in the options presented to the public. None of other scenarios offered were articulated well enough to be viable.

Chambers: Our organizations share Metro Vancouver’s concerns for environmental protection and sustainable growth.

Response: In no way is this statement qualified vis a vis the environment. Reference is only made to the belief that “this project falls in line with Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy”. The Board of Metro Vancouver sees it differently in their opposition to the bridge: “There is no integration between the bridge and the Regional Growth Strategy or transportation network” (Board Metro Vancouver). Certainly Metro would be better informed to make that opinion than the Chambers.

Chambers: We also believe the Province has worked collaboratively with Metro Vancouver, Translink, local Municipalities

Responses: If this were true why are the Board of Metro Vancouver and the Richmond city council opposed to this plan? Why is the Province having difficulty selling this project and why is there only one Mayor in favour of the bridge? Both Victoria and the Port of Vancouver speak highly of the public consultation process and the need of collaboration. It doesn’t take much research to find that -in fact- the public consultation process was little more than a one way stream of information. Collaboration with community was -and remains- non-existent.

Chambers: A 10-lane bridge would maintain the current three lanes that the counterflow provides today. It would also add one dedicated transit/HOV lane in each direction.

Response: In 2009 bus lanes were added to highway 99. Due to a lack of funding bus routes were subsequently cut back, leaving these lanes greatly underutilized. How does adding more bus lanes help transit or traffic in any way? How can this incredibly costly bridge be justified without any real transit plans in place?

Chambers: The recently released Greater Vancouver Economic Scorecard identified inadequate public transit and road infrastructure as a major obstacle to our regional prosperity, and Metro Vancouver’s resistance to this project only exacerbates the issues we are facing. The 10-lane Massey Tunnel Replacement is necessary to address these challenges to our regional infrastructure and national supply chains.

Response: It is true the crossing at the Fraser River needs to be improved. To suggest that this bridge is the answer to “regional infrastructure” shows a total inability to look at present or future needs. This bridge will only exacerbate conditions at Oak and Knight Street and really only deals with the issue of crossing the Fraser. How can a project so inconsistent with regional planning/needs be supported by anyone? If this infrastructure is important to regional prosperity it needs to be planned by the communities it affects. The operative word here is “planned”. Victoria and Ottawa need to be involved, but the needs of the Port of Vancouver are secondary to the needs of Metro Vancouver infrastructure.


It would be very interesting to hear what planners for the Metro region have to say about the proposed bridge and the effects of the bridge on Regional Infrastructure. It is highly unlikely that the Metro position has been taken without consulting their planning departments.


Links to the Vancouver Sun articles:



Regarding the claim that the tunnel is nearing the end of its life…Safety of the tunnel for another 50 years. This document can be translated from Dutch.

Kenaidan construction information about seismic upgrade:

Traffic numbers Direct from the ministry of transport report:

Government fact sheet on added bus lanes (We add thislink here for the record, but it appears to no longer be active as of July 12, 2016. Curious people may investigate with the Province.)

Cuts in bus routes:


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2 Responses to Response challenges Chambers of Commerce opinion (Vancouver Sun) on Massey Tunnel replacement bridge

  1. pmagn says:

    … and we haven’t even touched on Canada’s n BC’s #climate commitments including Paris. This 10 lane 30-story high bridge utterly fails a climate test on a number of fronts.. such as urban sprawl, encouraged FF industrial expansion, increased marine traffic, GHG (and other) pollution, reduced farm land, and actual construction footprint (the pilings are going to take huge amounts of cement/steel).

    Wasted money won’t ultimately address congestion … $4-$5 billion today and in 2 years time we again have congestion on the bridge, just look at the Alex Fraser!

    Air shed issues… more marine and vehicle traffic will make Richmond like downtown Vancouver for air quality.

    what’s needed first is the extention of the Canada Line from River Rock to White Rock, and the possible to Tsawwassen via Ladner. all at a fraction of the cost of this bridge.

    I don’t understand why Delta mayor supports this bridge which with the tolls will see family working on the otherside paying ~$3,000 per person per year. could cost a familiar upwards to 10$k!

  2. Jean Wightman says:

    I concur with Van der Velden’s well-written and well researched article.
    I understand the Liberal government is considering a possible PP3 with an American firm for bridge construction? If this is true will not the difference in our dollars dollar contribute to more than the suggested $3.5 billion cost of the new bridge? No facts are forthcoming on this yet, are they? Who will be getting the jobs to construct and how will B.C. residents benefit, if at all? How can the government build such a massive structure without even having a contractor secured? Obviously there is a lot going on behind the scenes and tax payers are not being contacted.
    If a foreign company builds the bridge then it will receive the tolls which I imagine will be hefty.
    The government, in my humble opinion, erred when it did not fully complete the upgrading of the tunnel several years ago. For an additional sum it could have made the tunnel more earthquake proof, if in fact that was deemed necessary at the time.
    Yes, Delta’s Mayor is speaking in her lone voice for the tunnel replacement. It’s too bad she cannot see other options as being more viable, less destructive to the environment and agricultural land and more reasonable. Leave the Port out of the equation. Does the Port require a new bridge?
    In May 2017 British Columbians vote for a Premier and MLA’s once again. This bridge replacement should be on hold until then and perhaps a referendum included in our ballot?

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