Michael Harcourt was Mayor of Vancouver for six years and Premier of this province for five years. In the Vancouver Sun editorial section Mike  presents the case about why replacing the Massey Tunnel with a bridge is not only unsustainable but a $4.7 BILLION dollar, not a  $3.5 billion dollar bridge when the bill comes in.

Mike notes that “According to an Oxford University study, bridges internationally over the last 50 years have averaged a 35-per-cent cost overrun. Look at our recent massive cost overruns and ongoing subsidies for the Port Mann Bridge” .  But just like the Port Mann bridge, the Province is  “proceeding unilaterally, without proper consultation with the mayors. The overarching problem with the stand-alone, unilaterally imposed Massey Bridge is that it is not part of a longer-term vision and transportation plan for Metro Vancouver. We have 2.5 million people now, with two million more expected in Metro Vancouver over the next 50 years. How does the Massey Bridge address that challenge? Not in any coherent, demonstrable way”.

“Fortunately, there is a $1.7-billion dual Massey Tunnel alternative. Not only is it at least half the cost, there are other advantages”,  including conserving the most arable land in Canada, maintaining critical migratory bird habitat, less seismic vulnerability and faster to design and build. It would also mean that the existing tunnel could be adapted and there would be less impact on the Fraser River south arm with dredging that would disrupt the “greatest salmon habitat in the world”.

“If that’s not enough, the other big problem is that a stand-alone Massey toll bridge proposal would just shift the traffic congestion from that route to the toll-less Alex Fraser Bridge and the Oak Street and Knight Street toll-less bridges. “

Oddly the Province did not undertake a scoping study for a twin tunnel, and has found lots of reasons to say that a massively overbuilt bridge is the right thing to do. Like the Port Mann bridge, Mike Harcourt maintains that  “unilateral, provincially imposed transportation projects such as the Massey Bridge proposal are a bad way to address these challenges, a bad way to govern.The Massey Tunnel alternative should be part of a 20-year bridge replacement plan, starting with the Pattullo Bridge, which should be replaced immediately”.

Mike notes that all bridges should have modest tolling that goes directly to Metro Vancouver transportation improvements. People are going to continue to come to Metro Vancouver, and the right infrastructure needs to be built in the right place.

“The $4.7-billion Massey Bridge proposal should not go ahead. Instead, the $1.7-billion dual tunnel idea should be built, together with a unitary tolling system. Let’s get moving!”