In early October the task force set up by the Metro Vancouver mayors came to a consensus and decided that an eight lane immersive tunnel would be the agreed upon option to replace the aging Massey Tunnel. The existing four lane Massey Tunnel still has another fifty years of service, but if used for transit would need seismic work for a one-in -475 year seismic event, and flood protection at entrances. Since these upgrades would be substantial, the task force examined five options, choosing the eight-lane tunnel. Two of the lanes of the tunnel would be dedicated for transit.

The Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council will now review the report and the decision of the task force, and forward their recommendation to the Province. Under the previous Liberal government, the Province had more of a quick and dirty approach which favoured an expansive and overbuilt ten lane bridge with all the requisite overpasses and land usurping ramps. Using the immersive tunnel  technology allows for slope grades  that would allow transit lanes to be converted to rail in the future. While cost estimates were not discussed, it is suggested that the cost of this option is similar to building a bridge. Environmental impacts would result from excavating both river banks, as well as mitigating  damage to existing fish habitats. You can take a look at the report of  the Massey Crossing Task Force here.

While a smaller crossing  at the existing Massey Tunnel with a separate crossing of the Fraser River that aligned up to truck routes for Vancouver  port bound traffic may have made more sense, it appears that cost was a factor in the choice of one bigger tunnel. The fact that this proposed tunnel is being located on sensitive river delta that will be prone to future flooding also needs to be addressed.

This time the Province under the NDP government asked the Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council to come to a consensus of what type of crossing would replace the existing Massey Tunnel. Of course a complete environmental assessment will also be necessary, expected to take a year to produce.

There’s no surprise that critics are decrying the fact that the previous Liberal provincial government’s massive bridge will not be built, throwing their hands up about the fact this could have been built faster. But while the previously proposed overbuilt bridge may have proceeded faster, the previous government had no plan on how to manage congestion on either side of the bridge. They never addressed the fact that traffic heading to Vancouver had to throat down to the two lane Oak Street Bridge. It was in many ways a pet project to produce jobs and votes, but did not have the supportive infrastructure to move increased projected traffic anywhere. It was also not supported by the Mayors’ Council with the exception of the Mayor of Delta who has been an outlier and port trucking traffic booster.

And that brings up the concept of induced demand. As described in this City Lab article,  induced demand “refers to the idea that increasing roadway capacity encourages people to drive, thus failing to improve congestion”. 

There is also “Marchetti’s Constant” .

This refers to the daily amount most people are prepared to travel to work, and while home locations will change, the travel time remains constant. As travel times become shorter with more dedicated travel lanes through a new tunnel, commuters can locate farther out, with the “constant” said to be about one hour in travel time. Of course as more people locate farther away, more congestion will occur at the Massey Crossing.

What also needs to be discussed is how a new eight lane tunnel addresses the goals around sustainability for the region, and if there are other ways to make transit more appealing by having less vehicular lanes, or by road/congestion pricing. Transit needs to be quick, comfortable and reliable and be easy to use, with a faster trip compared to a single occupant automobile.

The current congestion on the Port Mann Bridge is a case in point~with over 150,000 daily crossings and with the City of Surrey expanding by 1,000 people monthly, the bridge shows what induced demand can do, with a 62 percent increase of bridge traffic in five years.

It’s pretty clear that we can’t solve congestion by just building larger infrastructure, but with the Province’s Climate Plan we need to move smarter to reduce emissions. That means running the truck traffic from Deltaport on a 24 hour schedule like every other large port in North America, and scheduling trucks through the tunnel at non-peak times. It means being serious about road pricing and congestion charges, and earmarking those funds for efficient, comfortable and fast transit options.

Moving smarter in the region needs to be discussed now.


Lockwood Cartoon with thanks to Tom Durning






  1. Prediction No. 1: Talk will shift to transport by passenger ferries to the White Rock and South Surrey Rise within the lifespan of a new tunnel or bridge.

    Prediction No. 2: Talk will also shift to building homes, office and institutional buildings, blocks and entire neighbourhoods on floating ferro-concrete rafts accessed by passenger ferries and commercial freight barges by the time those who are born today are middle-aged.

    Such are the characteristics of preserving communities and arable soils where inundation is inevitable from climate warming-induced rising seas.

  2. the report implies that the existing tunnels can t be used for the next 50 years by cars & trucks for seismic reasons but does NOT explain why they would be safe for a transit & multi use pathway —- does not explain why no existing tunnel seismic upgrade considered plus a new two lane car bridge

  3. Just a note that part of the planning strategy for the new Port Mann Bridge – and the proposed Massey Bridge – was that tolls would reduce usage (traffic demand management) so that the structure would not become overloaded/overly congested before a specified period (counteracting induced demand).
    The current NDP government has screwed up that strategy by removing the tolls from the new Port Mann Bridge leading to the increased congestion on the new Port Mann Bridge recently reported in the news.

    The 2006 Gateway Project Definition Report stated regarding the new Port Mann Bridge:

    If the improved highway is not effectively managed through tolls and/or other congestion reduction measures, analysis shows that it would reach current levels of congestion 5 to 10 years after project completion. Additionally, without these measures, the level of congestion in the corridor would make it difficult to offer improved transit services along the route.

    So it is no surprise that the removal of the tolls has resulted in a spike in brdge use.

    The question that should now be asked regarding the narrower Massey Tunnel is:
    Will it be tolled to manage traffic demand (and counteract induced demand)?

    1. It’s more likely that tolls would reduce forecast demand to the point where the expense of the whole project could not be justified in a business case. The Port Mann case only ever ‘worked’ without tolls. This would indicate that aside from flooding and seismic future-proofing, nothing need be done to the Massey crossing at all. Unfortunately, it also lays bare the fact that any capacity increase to the crossing is just an act of political theater: placate motorists and be perceived to facilitate commerce. And it will only cost $10B. What government wouldn’t pay that?

  4. This cartoon is ripe for filling in your own balloon.

    Yo, peds, I’m in a rush to get to work, so that I can make my veehickle payment.

    Yo, peds, I hope you like carbon black, mayhem and destruction.

    Dad, is that one of the Visigoth’s we’ve been learning about in school?
    Yes, daughter – they don’t visit, they just go go go – busy Visigoes.

    Our son was killed on this street.
    Sorry man, wasn’t me.

    Dad, why doesn’t he work near where he lives?
    He likes to go go go.

    Dad, why is that one guy driving a huge veehickle?
    Because he’s brainwashed.

    Dad, I learned bad words at school: single occupancy veehickle commuter.

    #Visigoth Rat Runner

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