Last week the Metro Vancouver Board met and approved the recommendation of their task force for an eight lane immersive tunnel to replace the Massey Tunnel crossing of the Fraser. This has not been a seamless process, and as reported by Simon Little of Global News the approval was subject to conditions. Those conditions call for a thorough environmental impact assessment, addressing First Nations concerns regarding river habitat, and the development of a structured construction timeline for project completion in six to seven years time.
The other piece, and this is major, is conducting a full review of the traffic currently using the tunnel as well as the land-use concerns of Vancouver, Richmond and Delta. This also gives the Province and Metro Vancouver a chance to work with the Port to identify a more methodical way to schedule container trucks through the tunnel, and also consider going on a 24 hour schedule like every other major port in North America. Such scheduling would also have major implications for smarter use of the port, which is currently saying they need a new terminal without addressing the fact they are only open for business half of the day.
What also needs to be discussed is that allowing three lanes of traffic in each direction and dedicated transit lanes means that work must occur on getting more people on transit. Congestion in vehicular traffic is a good thing as it makes transit more timely and convenient in dedicated lanes. I have already written about Marchetti’s 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.”
You can’t build your way out of congestion, and that will need to be emphasized in meetings with Delta, Richmond and Vancouver. This might be the time that road and congestion pricing are considered for this new Fraser River crossing.
Metro Vancouver will now forward the agreed upon option of the immersive tunnel to the Province. Unlike the last go round with the past Provincial Liberal government, the current NDP government asked the region to come to an agreement about which Massey crossing option was preferred. The previous Liberal provincial government had proposed a ten lane bridge very similar to the Port Mann, complete with cloverleaf overpasses that looked as if they were imported from Los Angeles. The now approved immersive tunnel option allows the tunnel to be built in sections with prefabricated links, and also has a grade that would allow for the eventual installation of rail, a technical impossibility on the slope of the previously proposed massive bridge.
Here’s a video from the Vancouver Sun taken last month about the eight lane immersive tunnel that is now approved by Metro Vancouver’s Board of Directors.