At the end of August Angus Reid  conducted a survey of Metro Vancouver residents about their preferences for a new Massey Bridge at the Massey Tunnel crossing on the Fraser River. Remember that this survey was paid for by the Association of Consulting Engineers of B.C. and the B.C. Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association. Both of these organizations would have a lot of people quickly employed if the multi-billion dollar ten lane bridge was  to be built. Indeed, that was solidly in the Liberals’ Provincial election platform-build the Massey Bridge, employ 6,000 British Columbians. Don’t ask whether the bridge is in the right place, is sustainable, overbuilt, or a threat to the estuary. It’s about jobs.
Respondents throughout the region were asked the following survey question: “As you may be aware, the provincial government has developed a plan that would see the four-lane Massey Tunnel replaced with a new, higher-capacity bridge over the Fraser River. What are your views on replacing the tunnel with a bridge?”
Now that question has a little bias-it is assuming the replacement of the existing tunnel with a new, shinier, higher performance huge bridge. Respondents were not given any other alternative. The way it was written and said will of course make folks go for the unseen shiny penny, not the existing plodding tunnel which has been so slandered by the Corporation of Delta as antiquated, congested, and dangerous. Never mind the fact that it has performed like a solid workhorse for nearly 60 years and has 80,000 daily vehicles, and that similar designs to this tunnel are still in daily use in Europe. Let’s not consider that the tunnel technology could be part of a hybrid solution of either twinning with a  new tunnel or working in concert with a  smaller new bridge.
Local press including The Vancouver Sun’s Stephanie Ip  reported the survey results, which (of course) suggested that 75 per cent of regional respondents “said they would like to see a higher-capacity bridge built to replace the aging tunnel.”  Those results were even collected by political party, showing that ” those who voted for the B.C. Liberals in the spring election were most likely to support the Liberal-launched bridge project, with 90 per cent voicing support. However, 64 per cent of those who voted NDP also support the project.”
bridge2And there’s some interesting stuff-only 37 per cent of respondents in Richmond/Delta, the people most impacted by tunnel “congestion” favoured the new bridge. Which gets us back to why this survey was even conducted in the first place-if you are asking folks farther out in  the region what they want for an efficient driving experience, of course a new bridge sounds perfect. But for Richmond and Delta drivers, the loss of Class 1 arable farmland, the degradation of the banks of the Fraser River for industrial businesses, and the honking huge size of this multi-billion dollar bridge brings up more questions about the most efficient way to support regional transportation. An overbuilt bridge in the wrong place doesn’t solve congestion. It merely moves it.
Kudos to the current Provincial government for reviewing the billion dollar Massey  bridge and working with Metro Vancouver and the Mayors’ Council to figure out what the transportation needs are on a regional basis. Let’s start planning our transit and transportation to ensure that all residents have  mobility and accessibility. Let’s ensure the  plan at the Massey crossing is truly the best fit, and considers all the options, not just an “either/or” on an overbuilt expensive 20th century bridge.

Vancouver Sun graphs


  1. Most people would be agnostic to a bridge or new tunnel as long as the congestion is REDUCED.
    Most obvious would be a new parallel tunnel and a retrofit (or even replacement of or earthquake proof insert into) the old one so we have 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 lanes .. one of these 4 per direction dedicated HOV plus some room for bikes in the new tunnel plus tolls on ALL tunnels or bridges at all times and higher in rush hour.
    But then, common sense is no so common.

  2. “And there’s some interesting stuff-only 37 per cent of respondents in Richmond/Delta, the people most impacted by tunnel “congestion” favoured the new bridge.”
    I think you misread this part of the survey results. Only 37% in those communities “strongly” supported the new bridge, which implies that there was another category for those who “somewhat” support it. That 37% figure is higher than average, as only 29% of respondents (from all locations) claim to “strongly support” it, meaning that Richmond and Delta residents are among the most likely to support it.
    Anyway, I think the flaw in this survey is that it failed to mention the $3.5 billion cost of the bridge. It’s pointless to ask people if they support something, without mentioning any of the tradeoffs. People will almost always support more spending (or lower taxes), if the question doesn’t mention any of the consequences that would result.
    If you asked people “would you rather have the government spend $3.5 billion on a new Massey Bridge, or $2 billion on a Broadway subway and $1.5 billion on LRT in Surrey”, you might get a very different response.

    1. Did someone ask “How should we pay for this $3.5B?”
      A) higher income taxes
      B) higher PST
      C) bridge / tunnel toll
      D) higher property taxes
      E) reduced wages and benefits of civil servants
      F) higher gasoline taxes or surcharges for electricly charged EVs
      G) closure of two hospitals
      H) ______________
      It would be interesting to see the answers. There is no free lunch, indeed. That is why most restaurants are not very high end, as it costs. The price tag is conveniently swept under the table as if it didn’t matter.
      Maybe they should ask drivers “how much would you be willing to pay to not have a 1/2 h congestion in this tunnel”. That would also give some good insights.

      1. The bridge was being proposed since the Port of Vancouver wanted it due to the fact that the tunnel did not permit huge ships (for coal, LNG and airport fuel) to navigate up river but the Port did not want to pay for it. The province wanted to comply but had to lie about the real reasons for the bridge. My vote is that if the Port insists that the tunnel be demolished, then they should pay for the new crossing (bridge or deeper tunnel. Otherwise we are simply subsidizing the Port and Warren Buffet’s coal trains and Fortis LNG shipments and YVR fuel shipments.

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