November 4, 2015

Where is the business case for the Massey Crossing?

Delta MLA Vicki Huntington raises the issue:



The Massey Tunnel replacement will cost taxpayers at least $3 billion and should be based on detailed documentation and sound analysis. The fact that FOI requests to both the Premier’s office and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure turned up no technical reports, cost analysis or business case information that supported the decision is concerning.
One would hope a decision to spend $3 billion would have a paper trail of some length. There is a trend in the way government handles FOI requests that is turning public information into an endangered species.


Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer picked it up:

Where is the long overdue Massey Tunnel business plan?

Worth underscoring, too, that a business plan and cost-benefit analysis for this project is long overdue. When Clark first touted replacing the Massey to the UBCM, the business plan was supposed to be completed and released for public discussion in spring 2014.
Outside the legislature Tuesday, Transportation Minister Todd Stone confirmed the sought-after business plan and cost-benefit analysis for the Massey replacement remains a work in progress. Due for release soon, he assured me.
Back in April he described to the legislature how project planning was in the technical and engineering phase, aiming to resolve numerous “scoping” questions:
“How high does the bridge have to be? How long does the bridge have to be? How wide should the bridge be? What amount of road work — which could include interchanges and widening of roads leading up to the bridge on both sides?
“This will then enable us to assign a price tag or a cost to the overall project. That will then lead us into a period of determining the options for financing this asset. Then we move into a construction phase … beginning, as we have committed, in 2017.”
Then he envisioned most of those questions would be answered by early summer. Now the scoping report and cost estimate will supposedly be out before the end of the year, meaning 18 months late.


Not that it matters.

Rather than answer, Virk launched into an attack on the independent MLA that lumped her with the Opposition New Democrats: “The member for Delta South has joined the say no-to-opportunities party now, say no to infrastructure, say no to bridges … The no, no, no party.”

Which is the answer the Liberals seem content to live with when it comes to transit.

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  1. I was seven 1936. We celebrated the opening of the Mersey tunnel, Liverpool UK! Last time I was there, 1995, it was still going strong with no talk, that I know of, of removal or replacement.

      1. 9B+ people needs lots of resources and lots of energy incl. LG, oil .. and yes coal (the worst polluter anywhere) .. plus weed too soon .. a major “cash crop” for BC ..
        May I suggest a trip to Asia, Africa or S-America to see how much less these people have compared to our us incl. our coddled Liberal, NDP and Green voters that oppose everything industrial here yet somehow think only they are entitled to fridges, cars, cell phones, fancy bikes, bike lanes, hgih tech universities, movie theaters or clean air .. if the next 40% achieve what the top 10% already has we need a LOT of resources and energy .. and if Canada doesn’t supply it someone else will.
        Canada’s wealth is rooted in its vast land mass and associated resources: oil, gas, potash, grains, water, beef, eggs, dairy, gold, diamonds, copper .. loads of resources and associated processing and transportation industries .. and not one e-truck in sight .. nor one e-boat. Bikes just don’t cut it here ..

      2. In case you haven’t noticed, Thomas, China’s economy has dramatically slowed due to financial (a lot of debt-driven growth over there, now there’s a crisis of overextension) and demographic change. They are also plunging headlong into renewables to counter pollution and climate change. There are also hundreds of millions of people now demanding more than poverty wages. This has resulted in demand for fossil fuel resources falling off a cliff while production was concurrently maxed out in North America and steady-on in the Middle East. Ergo, a worldwide fossil fuel supply glut, drastically lowered prices, and a crisis in Canada’s oil patch.
        I suggest Canada start looking more at diversifying its economy into financial services, tech industry, manufacturing and exporting emission-free renewable electricity than to continue to pretend that exporting raw resources and jobs is some kind of heavenly economic blessing.

        1. Please get your facts straight. Yes, China’s growth has slowed, but is still 5-6% or more which is triple to quintuple that of US, Europe or Canada. India too is growing. As is Africa and S-America. Yes, fossil fuel use per $ of GDP is slowly declining. But overall, worldwide, it is still growing. Fossil fuel has not falling “off a cliff” but is growing roughly 1 to 1.5M barrel per day, annually .. now close to 100M barrel per day .. up from 85M a decade or so ago ! Here is a chart, for example: Where is the “cliff” in this straight line rising chart now close to 100M barrel of oil consumption PER DAY worldwide ?
          Diversification is good. One problem is excessive wages in Canada, especially public sector wages, and associated high taxation levels, and as long as they don’t come down we can’t compete in certain sectors. We need to exploit our competitive advantage, and as BCers that is: ports, resources (wood, oil, gas, LNG, coal, dairy, certain metals), natural beauty, education system .. and then long way down the list high tech, bio-tech, finance ..

    1. Roger; In 1971 the Kingsway Tunnel opened to relieve congestion in the 1934 Queensway Tunnel. Maybe it’s time to go back an relive the days of The Cavern and catch up on progress.

        1. I support a subway through Hastings east and around North Vancouver too. That would cost a few billion. It would also have garnered support for that referendum.

        2. “It would also have garnered support for that referendum.”
          You’re absolutely right, Eric. If there was one consistent criticism from No voters, it was that the proposal didn’t include enough spending.
          Good one!

  2. I would love to see the justification for ten lanes, if it even exists. Where is all this traffic going to come from?

    1. It’s already there. Two coming up to the tunnel from South Delta, parts of Tsawwassen and Ladner, two coming south from River Road, Tilbury, four running running north – two from the South Fraser Perimeter Road and two on the 99 north, plus a bus lane. That’s eight, or nine if you count the bus lane, in one direction – north.

      1. Eric, two thirds of the “heavily congested” traffic consists of highly inefficient single-occupant drivers paying only a fraction of the public cost of their vehicular dependency. Each one of them occupies about 70 m2 of highway lane (averaging one car length in front and behind), or 3.5 square kilometres of land for every 50,000 cars. The highway-bridge configuration is more about serving a few handfuls of mostly Liberal-voting commuters from White Rock and Tsawwassen and legislating at the behest of political donors with vested P3 interests than it is about shipping or trucking. A four lane commercial and transit-only bridge would serve the latter industries and commuters adequately.
        You have developed the habit of adding more costly massive tunnels for exorbitant amounts of road space and tend to avoid any analysis of their capital costs and the long-term effects of the often disasterous externalities, like healthcare, litigation, costs of emergency services, road maintenance and land acquisition.
        Your easy armchair assumptions always fail basic arithmetic. On the other hand, the professionals in the MoTH have access to all the relevant info, but then it gets triple-deleted before the public can see it, therein enabling cynical denial strategies. If they did the math with a sense of truly serving the public, not the politicos, they would conclude that continually building road space at any price is unaffordable, horribly inefficient from a land planning, inter-modal transportation and energy perspective, and environmentally unsustainable.

        1. The externality of pollution from idling vehicles is something that must be mitigated. The health of everyone in the region is at stake.

        2. No jurisdiction on Earth has successfully mitigated traffic congestion by building more unaffordable and unsustainable road infrastructure. It took LA seven decades of build out to realize that.

          1. It’s the pollution that really needs mitigating. Have you seen all those trucks heading down to the City of Vancouver Garbage Dump, and those now heading down to the massive Tsawwassen Container Port, all crawling and idling and belching fumes from Westminster Highway down to the tunnel daily? Wow! It’s probably impossible to mitigate the truck pollution without mitigating the congestion.
            When do we get Tesla 18 wheel trucks?

        3. Ground level ozone and oxides of nitrogen and sulfur halos the atmosphere around every major arterial and freeway, with or without idling traffic.

          1. Internal combustion engines do not function most efficiently when running at high revolutions (per minute). That is due to friction, as well as pumping losses.
            If your concern is idling, enforce the anti-idling laws we already have. Many modern vehicles routinely stop their engines at stop lights, automatically.

            1. Thanks Jeff, I’ll tell my neighbours to drive their F250’s in 1st gear.
              Yes, modern auto-off technology is here now. Taxpayers should subsidize these new vehicles, the same as the way they do for Tesla’s. We all want them.

        4. So why is our (left wing, pro-green, pro-bike) Mayor so against Uber then as Uber (and similar companies) would increase occupancy of vehicles ? Why is he so opposed to raising property taxes to build necessary public rapid transit infrastructure ? Why is he not taxing parking spaces on residential roads ?

        5. When considering the stratospheric costs of building more roads, there is a solution that even outcompetes transit: Reeboks.
          “The most green home (with a Prius) in sprawl still spews more carbon than the least green home in a walkable neighbourhood.”

          And two more related quotes regarding energy:
          “When we built our new house in Washington, we … did our best to clear the shelves of the sustainability store. Yet, all of our green gadgets cumulatively saves only a fraction of what we save by living in a walkable neighbourhood.”
          “Trading all your incandescent bulbs for energy savers conserves as much carbon per year as living in a walkable neighbourhood does in a week.” (Varies with the electricity source).

      1. As I’ve mentioned here before; Vancouver is just one of the destinations north of the Fraser River at that point.
        Two lanes exit immediately north of the present tunnel (recently widened from one lane because of congestion) exit at Steveston Highway. Most goes west into growing Richmond and Steveston. Two more lanes go west into Richmond and one goes east as they exit at Westminster Highway. To the east is the light industrial area up to and around Ikea and to the west another fast growing residential area of Richmond.
        One lane goes below the Westminster Highway and heads towards New Westminster and Burnaby along Highway 91 and two more lanes merge into one as they curve around and up to Knight Street and into south and east Vancouver and the Port.
        Further ahead one lane peals off and heads along Bridgeport Road towards east Richmond, the other west to YVR, River Rock, Costco (always busy), BCIT Aerospace & Technology, etc. (An advanced medical clinic and a substantial facility for autism patients are both under construction here too.)
        What’s left goes over the Oak Street Bridge and splits three ways; SW Marine Drive east and Cambie north. SW Marine Drive west and Granville Street north and UBC. And Oak Street.
        Much of the traffic isn’t headed to Vancouver.

        1. Thanks Eric, for so eloquently summarizing the problem. Steveston and No 5 is already hopelessly congested in all directions, guess we need more lanes there for the extra traffic. Westminster Highway and the East-West Connector are also both chock-a-block during rush hours, guess we will need new lanes to support the increased flow on them as well (good thing freeways are permitted use of ALR and we don’t have to get involved in any messy exclusion debates). How about exits at Blundell? Then we can really open up the farmland to the east for some industrial development to support the Port’s ongoing real estate speculation. Bridgeport Road? Already one of the worst Stroads in the region? I suppose we could stack more lanes on top and a new bridge over to the Airport. SW Marine, Cambie, Granville, Oak Street… a hardly comprehensive list of new road capacity we will need to build to support the single-mode options for people developing new sprawl in ALR lands south of the Fraser. It demonstrates how $3Billion is likely a ridiculous underestimate of the cost of this new freeway project. As long as we aren’t wasting your hard-earned tax dollar on a money pit like Transit.

  3. Patrick, you make a compelling case for residences to be built closer to the city. Instead of all that blueberry land in Richmond there could be hundreds of thousands, even millions of people living there. Same goes for a massive amount of Delta.
    At least those areas of Richmond and Delta could be serviced by rapid transit. It would be expensive but in time it will probably happen.
    As you say; Steveston and No 5 is already hopelessly congested in all directions. Yes, that area has grown substantially over the past few years. No doubt some traffic comes down from the airport and the Richmond Hospital, as well as Steveston. Yet, in the afternoons the bulk of the traffic seems to go south through the tunnel. So people are commuting to Ladner, Delta, Surrey and Langley.
    As things are now the traffic is flung out to suburbs which are a long distance away on the other side of ALR terrain.
    A little SkyTrain spur with six stations along Broadway will not solve any problems. A few residential towers along that strip won’t either. As you rightly say, the East-West Connector is busy during rush hours, as you must have noticed, much of the travel is between Richmond and Delta, and New Westminster and Surrey. Vancouver is neither the origin, nor the destination. A comprehensive rail system across that axis and extending into the residential areas to the east could be some relief but horribly expensive.
    Nevertheless, as Larry Beasley wrote earlier this week; people like to live in small residences in the suburban areas and for many reasons. There’s nothing much we can do about that. In the absence of transit they will drive. Note too that TransLink is proposing and meeting with residents this month with plans to reduce and eliminate altogether some bus services in Surrey. We presume ridership is very low.
    It seems a bit crazy that the defeated plan for transit did not include any rapid transit for these areas to the south, or those across the inlet to the north of Vancouver.
    With the largest shipping port in the country it does seem likely that expansion is to be expected. China may be slowing down but it’s still growing, as are other important countries all around the Pacific Rim.
    Los Angeles and Vancouver are similar in that they are spread out across vast areas. Relatively new cities. Los Angeles finally bit the transit bullet but it isn’t coming cheap and the traffic is worse than ever.
    Any hope for less traffic in the Vancouver region is really hopeless nostalgia.

      1. So many people in academia and transit and bicycle lobby groups disliked the previous plebiscite so much, it’s probably not such a good idea.

        1. That’s what I appreciate about you, Eric. You’re not afraid to point out the hypocrisy in your own arguments, even as you fervently make them.
          Classic troll maneuver, with textbook execution.

          1. Some would consider the past election as a public opinion on the Massey Tunnel Replacement, since even then the engineering consensus was that a replacement will soon be required. The proposal for a bridge was announced in 2012. Three years ago.
            A replacement tunnel would be also extremely challenging in relation to the entrance and exit ramps at both the north and the south sides of the river.
            It not so much a business case that is needed because there obviously has to be a crossing of the river somewhere around that present location. What else, go back to a ferry? Doubtful. A larger tunnel?
            What exactly is the alternative?

            1. There isn’t any real alternative as only abject poverty or ex-migration of millions would cut down the volume of traffic. Green politics, as well as many unrealistic opinions espoused by some followers of this blog, cannot meet both ends: a wealthy healthy society and less traffic.
              Goods and people have to be moved, in ever increasing numbers, and for that, you need infrastructure. We can debate the price of the tunnel or the bridge toll, or whether or not there ought to be a separate lane for a high speed (e)bus or (e)train, but we ought not to question the necessity of a new, wider bridge (or tunnel).

    1. The Broadway Corridor currently receives so many tranist users it had been called one of the most heavily-congested bus routes on the continent. Half those commuters originate east of Boundary Road. With the Broadway Line more viable than ever before under Trudeau, the Network Effect will play a huge role in skyrocketing usage the day after it is completed, essentially extending SkyTrain’s reach from at least Arbutus +to Coquitlam Centre without transferring.
      Regarding your paragraph from the Socred Retreads ass-backwards development handbook, building thousands of low density houses in subdivisions plastering the Green Zone from here to Hope will not result in a viable city. It will result in hell. There you are, removing the irreplaceable brown gold called Class 1-3 soils and replacing it with with plastic houses with award-winning garage door architecure. You certainly won’t be building more than mid-rises in the flood plain while dikes are built even higher to block the storm surges in a few decades, at least as long as the soft alluvial strata can support their weight.
      So, we should never strive to supply our own food, even in the face of a multi-year drought at the source of our sustenance, while you can take advanyage of the opportunity to submerge farms under tarmac servicing far-flung subdivisions, and for inner city folks to continue subsidzing suburbanites.

  4. I, personally, like cities. I speak of facts. As Larry Beasley wrote in the Sun earlier this week, over 60% of the population overwhelmingly like living outside of the city centres.
    Unless the mayors of the region are prepared to push hard for fast efficient rapid transit from the regional areas into the city centre, then people will travel in personal vehicles.
    As it is now the Sky Train system is only designed for the young and middle aged. There are no toilet facilities on the rail system in Vancouver. The fact of life is that as humans become older they need to use toilet facilities increasingly frequently and at shorter notice. This is sad but it’s a fact. This means that a substantial, and growing segment of the population will not take transit – and they won’t vote to spend money on it either.
    As for inner city residents subsidizing suburbanites; this is a meme that doesn’t fly. It just betrays another technocratic Scientology-like superiority bias. Hundreds of thousands of residents of the suburbs pay into transit through a variety of taxes and many receive no transit within their area.
    The panic of the alternative to modest dwellings with immediate and personal green space is a a cry of the probability of an overwhelmingly insufferable volume of asphalt, burying the natural world and devouring arable land, so causing the likelihood of food shortages. This, in a country with one of the absolute lowest destiny of population on the planet.
    John Ralston Saul nailed it in his true but too long Voltaire’s Bastards. The self appointed arbiters of correctness always forget that the people are always right. Closing down developments in the ‘burbs would need a Soviet styled dictatorship.

    1. I mean do you just pop on the hazards and just leave your car in the slow lane on Hwy 1 at Brunette, waddle over to the shoulder and drop a deuce? You’re right cars are better

  5. That’s easy Ron. Whether you’re going east or west, just pull off at Brunette, go a couple of blocks and drop into Ikea. Plenty of easy parking and large clean toilets. While you’re there you can always pick up a lovely Docksta table. That’s the really nicely done Saarinen knock-off that is an absolute steal compared to the Knoll original. They even have veggie meat balls now. Everything is so civilized.
    Not so easy to do if you’re across the highway coming into Braid Station on the train. There’s nothing there. It’s in the middle of nowhere. Better hold it.