The provincial Liberals have elected a new leader Kevin Falcon, who in February wasted no time in announcing that the agreed upon work conducted by the party in power, the NDP, was wrong at the Massey Crossing of the Fraser River.
The provincial NDP (New Democratic Party) has undertaken an open process and obtained feedback and agreement from Metro Vancouver’s Mayors Council for the eight lane tunnel. Previously the provincial Liberals had bluntly ignored the Mayors Council and conducted a rather biased evaluation of the options for a crossing, magically choosing a ten lane bridge that conveniently landed into Liberal held ridings on either side.
The provincial Liberals at the time said that any tunnel would be a problem because of ships travelling over it. Surprisingly they are mute on that point now, although Panamax capacity ships still require more than a 12 meter depth for draft.
The Liberal documents on the crossing at the time appeared to leapfrog potential tunnel solutions and landed squarely on a ten lane multi-billion dollar bridge as the right thing to do. It would of course be visible to all, and play directly in the interests of Deltaport, which unlike every other major port in North America does not schedule truck traffic on a 24 hour clock to minimize congestion and traffic conflict.
The minority Liberal party had advocated for a ten lane bridge similar to that produced for the Port Mann Bridge, complete with jumbo Los Angeles style cloverleafs exiting into Richmond. And those cloverleafs would serve another purpose, allowing trucking convenience to the north side of the undeveloped Fraser River waterfront which would have been further industrialized with new access.
The option chosen by the NDP party and announced in the summer of 2021 was for an eight lane immersed tunnel, with two immersed tubes for vehicular travel and a third for bicycles and walkers. You can read through the Province’s announcement here. The option provides three lanes of travel in both directions, as well as transit lanes and a bicycle lane.
As reported by Lisa Cordasco in the Vancouver Sun, the Liberal finance critic actually accused the NDP government of ignoring First Nations environmental concerns regarding the new tunnel. That was a pretty awkward statement given that the provincial Liberals had not consulted with the Musqueam First Nation who define this area of the Fraser River as being the heart of Musqueam territory. The Massey Crossing area is surrounded by indigenous heritage sites and culturally important places, including fishing areas, and the Tsawwassen First Nations has concerns about the integrity of the river.
The rationale for approving this immersed tunnel proposal included being similar to the existing situation, noting that a bridge would “introduce new visual, noise and lighting impacts” for the subdivision situated at Delta’s Marina Garden estates. There is less of a footprint on farmland and no worry about ships hitting bridge infrastructure with the tunnel option.
The bridge would have also required piers to be pile driven into Deas Slough on sensitive wetlands. The upside of the bridge alternative was that the environmental review would require one year less than the review for the immersive tunnel.
The immersed tunnel would require a lower profile in the river, and would be a shorter distance, but requires three years for environmental review (instead of two for a bridge) and a five year build out, making it an eight year process from approval to completion. The provincial NDP have announced completion of the new immersed tunnel for 2030.
At this point everyone that needs to use the Massey Crossing just wants a decision to be made and get the new crossing completed, with no more switcheroos because a provincial political party formerly in power says so.
The Provincial NDP’s announcement of a dedicated bus lane from Bridgeport Canada Line Station to Highway 99 is good news for transit users, and building dedicated bus lanes on Highway 99 is being done now, as well as other preparatory work.
The Massey Tunnel had originally opened in May 1959 and is the only road tunnel below sea level in Canada, which also makes it the lowest Canadian road surface. The 60 year old original tunnel was built using immersed tube technology similar to what will be replacing it.