Why is the proposed 10-lane Massey Bridge so overscaled and hence so expensive? Because it is essential to the care and feeding of Motordom – the vehicle-dominant transportation system that has shaped our urban regions for most of a century.
The caring part we know about it: keeping the traffic moving.  It is why so much infrastructure, especially the Massey, is devoted to addressing the problem of congestion, even though regionally there is little chance of success it will do so.
The feeding part is less visible: the massive amount of debt accrued to build and then maintain a constantly expanding road-based system.  That debt and the interest payments are often a more important outcome than the infrastructure financed by it, which from a truly inclusive cost/benefit analysis would not be justified.
Governments have been pretty much committed to trying to hide the costs of Motordom, at least to the individual driver/taxpayer.  We like it that way.  It’s the ‘Next trip is free’ syndrome.
So Massey can be thought of as a bridge whose foremost function is the paying of debt*, given that it is low on the regional priority list, it is so grotesquely overscaled, and the problems of congestion can be addressed in far cheaper ways with less negative consequences.
The additional debt is being accrued because the decision-makers believe that the public will go along with the price tag so long as the improvement in congestion is dramatic and the cost to the individual user isn’t too high.**
The financial industry, particularly the bond market and those who put the funding package together, are primarily interested in having another expensive piece of infrastructure to keep the money machinery well greased.  They encourage a much larger structure than necessary.  They know it will only move the congestion literally down the road.  It’s then only a matter of time before another massive structure will be needed.
And that’s the point.
“financing costs for the bridge will add another $8 billion in costs that British Columbians will be paying for the next 50 years – bringing the total bill to nearly $12 billion.
“The total interest costs between 2017 and 2068 – when the debt would be retired – would be $8 billion.
“The two-page document shows the province proposes to raise the capital for the bridge through the issuing of 18 bonds, at $200 million to $525 million each, with various maturity terms.”
** Minister Stone: The reason we’re doing it is to keep toll rates low for commuters.”


  1. I’ve always thought that the foremost function of the new bridge will be to relieve congestion, ease frustrations and stress, reduce pollution from idling vehicles, facilitate rapid transit and allow for a bike and pedestrian lanes. Sounds good to me and be certain, this also sounds good to thousands of others.

    1. Make that 1001.
      What’s the alternative to move goods and people in a growing region (1M+ more people the next 30-40 years) in a growing country, exporting and importing to a growing Asian world in Canada’s only major pacific port region ?
      Road tolls, subways, densification all help but we still need far more than four lanes as congested Alex Fraser, SFPR or Patullo Bridge show!

      1. We will have a better idea of demand AFTER we have road tolls. Test demand with a $5 toll after the election before building this white elephant.

        1. Seriously. $5 will not reduce demand a lot. $20 at rush hour might.
          You canNOT grow the economy and the wealth of its ever growing population by not investing into infrastructure and opposing everything: pipelines, dams, roads, bridges, tunnels, wires. Only more commerce, with more efficient infrastructure with no wait times will increase wealth and reduce environmental impact per kg of freight shipped or per person carried. More bike lanes or just more road tolls won’t cut it.
          While I also would have loved to see a better business case and more explanation why other alternatives such as a wider deeper tunnel aren’t as viable, this alternative is better than the status quo.
          We also know that SFPR and Alex Fraser is undersized so might as well start oversized as it will fill up, and in 25 years they’ll call it “visionary” when they rename it the Christy Clark Bridge.

        2. Self serving insurance companies love a good disaster, or better: 15. Premiums go up. What is not to like ? More and more people, pushing housing ever closer to rivers that overflow from time to time, or the ocean that has large waves from time to time is the major issue. The Fraser River, for example, routinely flooded 100+ years ago, well before Al Gore invented and hyped up global warming.
          Pictures from 1948 http://www.theprovince.com/Photos+Historical+photographs+Fraser+River+floods/6807789/story.html
          History of flooding: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_flooding_in_Canada
          Fraser River floods for 1894: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_flooding_in_Canada#1894_Fraser_River_flood
          Just because we now have CNN, Twitter and the internet doesn’t mean floods are new, or worse than 100+ years ago !

        3. And who was making a killing when Galileo “invented and hyped up” a spherical earth revolving around the sun? I’ll bet your ancestors were there ridiculing him.

        4. “100+ years ago, well before Al Gore invented and hyped up global warming”
          Your ignorance knows no bounds.
          “In developing a theory to explain the ice ages, Arrhenius, in 1896, was the first to use basic principles of physical chemistry to calculate estimates of the extent to which increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) will increase Earth’s surface temperature through the greenhouse effect.”
          Don’t forget about the diking that was done along the Fraser in response to previous flooding. Those dikes need to be raised now. Yes, the risk of flooding is getting worse. That is what happens when you warm the oceans and they rise, and accelerating climate change causes more frequent and severe storm events.

        5. “The report suggests a large-scale catastrophic natural disaster would cause some of Canada’s property and casualty insurers to fail, putting immense pressure on those remaining and overtaxing the industry-funded Property and Casualty Insurance Compensation Corporation, which steps in when a member insurer becomes insolvent.”
          Insurance companies profit when bad things don’t happen. It’s pretty much their business model. One cannot characterize Beyer’s comments without violating editorial policy. I thought he had one strike left, yet is continuing to be edited? Diminishes the value of the conversation. Ruins the credibility of the blog. A real shame.

        6. Jeff Leigh, isn’t that dyking you’re anxious to protect just another egregious example of meddling with the natural environment?

        7. Depends. Do you want to build dikes on tidal mud flats to create new land for housing? Or build dikes on dry land to protect infrastructure from 100 year flood events?

    2. Well, when you put it THAT way…anyone opposed to this bridge is clearly a terrorist with Cuban wanderlust. Almost 100 years of over-building this type of infrastructure has proven – again and again and again and again and again ad nauseam – that you get the opposite effect. This bridge will not “cure” congestion; it will just move the existing pinch point a little further to the south.
      But maybe this is the one that will finally “solve” the problem. Maybe this one 10-lane highway bridge will be the one little chestnut that puts every preceding highway failure to shame and finally validates the prejudice that building highways solves congestion. They’ll have you to thank for it Anonymous. You and your unwaivering disdain for reality and support of baseless prejudice.

  2. The care and feeding of Motordom remains a primary objective of every government. However, some governments are more convinced than others that this is a good thing. Follow the money. The donor list for the BC Libs is peppered with more auto / petroleum-centric patrons than any other party. The old Social Credit used car sales men and women have dropped the Brylcream, changed suits, and traded out the Caddy for Audis.
    Emissions still belch forth despite a generation of climate science, and the innovative BC carbon tax still remains purposely stuck while CO2, methane and nitrous oxide together have pushed the atmospheric carbon equivalent total to well over 500 parts per million and eventual warming to over four degrees. That is runaway global warming territory, which will be imposed on the grandchildren of today’s Millennials — who often do not vote nor think twice about injecting a tonne of GHG high into the atmosphere (the worst place for any GHG to materialize) every 2,000 km flying to unnecessary overseas vacation destinations after incessantly moaning all year about politicians who take no action on climate change, who build too many freeways and not enough transit, and so on.
    This latest information means that Paris may be a wasted effort, except for Christy. Our premier actively worked against action on climate change for years (‘Clean’ LNG? What a joke. Increasing traffic capacity will lower emissions? Incomprehensible.), then flew to Paris for COP21 with a photographer to send home snaps of herself schmoozing with Al Gore. Governance by smiley face.
    Opportunism so shallow. Hypocrisy so deep. Yet it’s a wonder the polls are tied for the two big parties at the end of the campaign though the need for a major reset has never been greater if for no other reason than to bring the province in tune with the 21st Century.
    The Green Party offers hope, but that may be set up for disappointment. As it turns out Andrew Weaver, former award-winning climate scientist and supposedly a man of principle, will be willing to accept a cabinet post in another Christy Clark government, but seems reluctant to dance with the NDP. Huh? This is what the man himself said. It appears the significant amount of principled policy overlap between the Greens and the NDP on the environment and other issues can actually be sacrificed for fossil fuels, the corrupt influence of money in politics, and mega freeways because of personal animosity between Weaver and John Horgan.
    One would think the Green membership and voters would have something to say about that, should it come to pass.

    1. Even Teslas get stuck in or approaching this tunnel.
      Individual freedom to move is not dependent on gasoline as we will get more and more e-cars or even e-trucks eventually !

    2. Society will eventually shift away from fossil fuels as depletion of cheap reserves continues, and the expense and lower net energy of unconventional reserves comes further into play. With climate change, that natural economic process cannot happen fast enough, and indeed it is foolish to continue down the high carbon road.
      With so much public infrastructure invested in carbon and building higher mountains of debt that essentially handcuff future generations, no number of Teslas driving over an unnecessarily bloated bridge and freeway to satiate ego and overconsumption will ever lead to a better society.

      1. E-car owners will likely differ in their opinion here. Let’s not confuse individual freedoms of movements with a dependence on oil.
        The individually owned or used vehicle will be with us forever. It used to be a horse or carriage. Then a diesel or gasoline car. Now switching – ever so slowly – to hybrids or electric. That is a 50-80 year transition. Add Uber, Evo or Car2Go, car coops and ride sharing and you will see that cars won’t go away, even if they all are electric one day. Add delivery vehicles and trucks, both small or large, and you will see that roads, bridges, tunnels or highways won’t go away anytime soon.

        1. Car share fleets have between 20 and 70 people per car. Goods movement still makes up a small percentage of the total vehicles on the road. Yes, some people need a car for now to haul tools etc. I wonder what we don’t see coming with that assumption, but for now it seems reasonable to accommodate people who are willing to pay the true cost.
          Thomas, you would have argued for more and bigger hay fields and drinking troughs as trams and cars started to take over from horses.

        2. Shared cars, e-cars or car coops will still use the bridge. Evo & Car2Go do NOT offer shared cars in Richmond, Surrey, Delta etc though .. as the density is too low. Cars make sense where density is not too high.
          The collective system, i.e. trains, buses, LRTs, subways etc make sense on some routes but not all. In time we will arrive at some hybrid public-private transit system with AVs or Uber like enabled cabs with drivers, some individually used and some shared (for a lower price). Not everyone like sharing, be in in communes for living, condo living or for transit. Many prefer individual choices. Communes work for some, as do buses, but an individual car or a house or townhouse works for others. Both will co-exists forever most likely, even if cars are tolled or are electric !
          As to bigger hayfields: I guess that would have made sense if the demand for more horse food was there. I am not a horse expert. Europe had the advantage of growing very sizable cities without the car i.e. for pedestrians and horses only, and thus dense 5-7 story housing is the norm in London, Paris, Munich, Madrid etc .. North-America has a different built forms as it grew substantially with the car. Not necessarily worse. Just different.

  3. I suppose that you could, to put your mind at some ease regarding the spread of motordom, look at the planned replacement of the Patullo Bridge – with another 4 lane structure.
    While it can, in theory be expanded to 6 lanes in future, it seems unlikely that New Westminster would allow that to happen.

    1. You can bet Vancouver won’t allow more or wider bridges across the north arm either. So the mammoth GM bridge would merely shift the bottleneck and gain very little for anyone.

      1. Unless there is a more business friendly mayor voted in. We need more bridges EVERYWHERE around Vancouver: Lions Gate, Knight Street, Oak, Boundary Road extension (incl making Boundary Rd a highway), Second narrows etc
        Plus more transit ie subways and LRTs.
        All tolled appropriately. The free approach is wrong. You get people moving while they pay and most will understand that.

        1. Thomas, you still haven’t told me what will happen when all the cars going over your new bridges enter Vancouver. Would this not create total gridlock? Can you propose a solution for this?

        2. Many do not enter Vancouver. In addition, even if we do not add more cars we need better flow today.
          Car use is too cheap, in both its states: driving and parked. Tolls or better, per km charges, will reduce overall car use per 1000 people, but with a growing population we will still see more (or at least the same # of) cars overall. Our 1930’s designed road network needs expanding for 4M+ people in the Lower Mainland. And yes, transit too. BOTH.

        3. Thomas, a more business friendly mayor tried to turn Vancouver into just another freeway city. When that failed it completely changed the conversation about transportation in Vancouver. Suburbanites largely missed that conversation but in Vancouver it has empowered people to resist dumb road projects.
          Hippies and CEOs would lie side-by-side in front of the bulldozers.

        4. Sure they would Ron. I guessed the bulldozers managed to dodge them when they built the Port Mann and upgraded Highway 1.

        5. *Snap* *Snap* *Snap* Wake up Bob! We were talking about dumb road projects in Vancouver.
          Vancouver did not and will not widen roads through East Van to accommodate any extra traffic induced by the over-sized Port Mann bridge. In fact the city is working on removing the viaducts, a major east-west roadway. It has also removed two lanes from the Burrard Bridge, is working on removing one from the Cambie Bridge and two from the Granville Bridge. The trend isn’t looking good for adding capacity to north-south roads or bridges to accommodate a ridiculously over-sized GM (replacement) Bridge that the region doesn’t want.

    2. Well, it will gain us $3.5 b in costs, with close to $12 b in total expenditures. That will gain a lot for some. Just not those who have to pay the bills.

  4. OK, someone needs to ‘show me the math’ on this $12b figure. The Sun article says that the estimated bridge cost is $3.5b, and the Province will borrow $4.9 in long-term bonds, $2.2b in ‘short-term borrowing’, and $900m for a ‘private partner’. Unless the $4.9 figure is all interest costs, you can’t simply add the numbers together to get the total project cost.
    That’s like saying my house’s land + construction costs are $700,000 and I’m borrowing $650,000 so my total expenditures are $1,350,000 (which is not true). And I don’t add up all the interest costs on my $650,000 mortgage to calculate the “total cost” of my house.
    A lot of this discussion about costs simply don’t make sense to me.
    As for the project itself, there’s no question that SOMETHING needs to be done at the Massey Tunnel. It really is a mess, no matter what direction you’re travelling. That said, the proposed project is so over the top, it almost has no other option than becoming a white elephant.
    I’ve heard that the option of adding another 2-tube parallel tunnel is not feasible, but I’m not convinced on that. Doing that would allow you to use two counterflow lanes, so that you have a four/two configuration at each peak. That would increase the peak direction flow by 33% and the counterflow by 50%. Employ some TDM with variable tolling, and you’d have enough capacity to significantly reduce the lineups, while avoiding dumping too much extra volume onto the Oak & Knight St. Bridges.

    1. re the $12 b figure:
      Also previously posted on Pricetags.
      The FOI documents showed interest/carrying charges of $8 b on top of the construction cost. So the total expenditure is $12 b, with costs spread from now until 2068.
      No one is saying that they have to come up with $12 b this year. Just that that is what it will cost in total, including debt servicing. No one except Thomas believes money is free.
      For your house example, if you have a purchase price of $700 k, it should be of interest to you what your total costs will be including debt servicing costs. Not the value of the mortgage, but what you paid for the privilege of having that mortgage.

      1. Money is not free. But less than 8B since BC government can borrow at sub 2.5%.
        Missing in the debate is the benefits of any investments ie toll revenue, increased GDP growth, higher tax revenue from more employment, real estate development, land transfer taxes, property taxes and PST plus reduced pollution from less idling.
        Expenses cannot be seen in isolation of revenues. Both sides of the equation matter.

      2. Thomas: “BC government can borrow at sub 2.5%.”
        BIV: “During the construction phase, the government would issue seven-year term bullet bonds with a 3.15% interest rate, as well as 30-year bonds at 3.57% to 3.9% interest rates”
        Should readers believe you and your unsubstantiated claim, or the documents found in the FOI request? Did you even read the linked article? What can you think of that would cause the borrowing to be more expensive?

  5. This is simply daylighting 750 metres of under-water pavement before a seismic event makes it a world-class disaster (with loss of life), and allowing more effective national shipping to the existing terminals up the river. It’s a near 60-year old tube, built on top 200 storeys of silt, and becoming obsolete day by day. It is height-limited, so taller loads as well as dangerous goods must be funneled through other neighborhoods and to other bridges. It will not be allowed to catastrophically fail as infrastructure does in other negligent jurisdictions. It’s a precautionary thing. The bridge, will be built.

  6. Here we go again.
    Andrea posts: “This is simply daylighting 750 metres of under-water pavement ….. a near 60-year old tube….catastrophically fail….The bridge, will be built”
    This follows previous posts with similar phrasing.
    “Dave Markoff” posted: “(this) is daylighting 750 metres of pavement. In situ. Come on.”
    “Alessandra Nibale” posted: “(this) is a local highway, involving daylighting 750 metres of pavement. In situ. In an obsolete, near 60-year-old tunnel.”
    “James Mahadre” posted: “(this) is daylighting 750 metres of pavement. In situ. Before catastrophic failure.”
    One clue to this being the same person is that engineers don’t “daylight” tunnels under rivers unless they want them to be flooded. They daylight tunnels like the Cassiar tunnel, where opening up it gets you to, well, daylight. The cloned phrases over an extended time period suggests a spambot with an operator.
    I just watched a news conference where a provincial leader who has strongly promoted a new bridge talked about a new way of doing politics. More transparency. etc. If there is a boiler room churning out these posts, perhaps they didn’t get the memo yet.

  7. The percentage of the overall expenditure devoted just to the bridge is only part of the story. I see from reports that the highway will be, in fact it’s already being, prepared for rapid-bus and HOV lanes from Bridgeport Road in Richmond all the way down to the Highway 91 interchange in Delta. This is well over 20 km of road improvements for transit and electric/HOV vehicles.

    1. We shall see what the new Libs+Green or NDP+Greens government will do here. Cancel it altogether and leave people stuck in traffic for years ? Toll it $20 at rush hour and only $5 during normal hours to reduce demand ? Disallow cars and force people onto buses ? Build a third tunnel ? Re-visit the concept altogether and maybe build a smaller 8 lane bridge (for almost the same cost) or a 8 lane tunnel (for similar costs probably) ?
      Any alternative has pro’s and con’s.
      What is the best solution ? For whom ?

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