Simon Fraser professor Anthony Perl was perfectly right when he called the proposed ten lane multi-billion dollar Massey Bridge a “loser” on CBC radio, noting that the existing Massey Tunnel could be upgraded for trucking traffic, rail cars, and of course public transport. But the report just released by the Provincial government written by Stanley Cowdell and associates is well worth having a read. It coherently lays out the issues, the misses, and the facts on creating more capacity crossing the Fraser River near the existing Massey Tunnel.
The report which can be read here fearlessly lays out the rationale for why the new crossing was being considered by the previous Liberal government, assessed the solutions, and provides independent findings and recommendation for going forward on the crossing.
It is a document that provides the history of the crossing and how an overbuilt ten lane bridge was planned for (the span was not to have any pilings in the water) and outlines that the various governments and councils may not have agreed upon the bridge concept, but that their interests align in providing safe, efficient movement.
While traffic has grown little in the tunnel over the past three decades, the decision not to toll the various bridges has meant that the Alex Fraser Bridge has borne more congestion. The report spearheaded by Mr. Cowdell observes that while the proposed Massey bridge was to reduce congestion until 2045, support increased transit and minimize the impact on the environment, there was no in-depth analysis comparing alternative solutions to the Liberals’ preferred bridge. Such a trade-off or cost benefit analysis is absolutely vital in ascertaining the best alternative for a crossing.
The report outlines that using bridge footings in the river for a smaller bridge and utilizing a road alignment off the existing highway could reduce crossing costs by 500 million dollars. Reducing bridge lanes from 10 to 6 or 8 lanes would mean a much more legible and less overwhelming interchange design for the Steveston exit. Rapid transit is nixed in this report as being too costly, with the concept of buses using bus lanes and queue jumping to provide efficient public transit movement.
As for all the chat about the existing tunnel not being sound, the report outlines that the existing tunnel still has decades of life and while a retrofit of the existing tunnel is possible, it may exceed the cost of a new submerged tunnel. The report notes that “It is the Review’s opinion that an ITT (immersed tube tunnel) crossing option is feasible and may result in increased benefits and cost savings in comparison to a new bridge when such options as staged development and utilizing existing infrastructure are considered.”
So there you have it~the recommendation is for a thoughtful review of the best option for the crossing, ensuring that the First Nations and the Mayors’ Council comply with the chosen alternative, and for safety upgrades in the tunnel and the Steveston interchange to proceed quickly. The Minister of Transportation Clare Trevena will meet with the various municipal councils in the New Year outlining potential solutions. While the provincial Liberals have already launched their predictable naysaying campaign, it was their lack of meaningful public process and consultation with the municipalities and their dogged determination to have an overbuilt bridge regardless of the environmental and economic cost that got us here in the first place. The Cowdell review provides some clear footing to proceed, carefully and prudently, to arrive at an agreed upon solution with accurate information that will truly serve all the region, not just certain industrial and port related interests.