It’s been a while since the Massey Tunnel replacement debate surfaced again and kudos to Sandor Gyarmati with the Delta Optimist for keeping up on this slowly evolving story.
During the pandemic there’s been changes in commuting patterns. A survey done by pollster Mario Canseco suggests that up to 73 percent of people expect to do some work from home even after the pandemic is over.
A recent survey undertaken by McKinsey in the United Kingdom reported in The Economist estimates that 20 to 25 percent of workers in full time traditional “at the office” positions will work three to five days a week at home. This will impact commuting traffic patterns, for transit and for single occupant vehicles.
With the existing tunnel there are short term congestion remediation measures that could be undertaken, like keeping trucks out of the tunnel during peak commuting times, advertising and implementing rapid bus service during those peak times, and offering incentives to people who commute by transit.
You will also notice how silent the Port of Vancouver is as they quietly continue their Federal process for expanding a new Deltaport terminal into the sensitive environment of the Salish Sea. The port does not ship and load 24 hours a day like its counterparts, which could also positively impact the congestion at the tunnel by scheduling goods movement around the clock.
The two potential alternatives for the new Massey Crossing have been sent to Ottawa as a “draft funding request” which was too late for the 2021 Federal Budget. The two alternatives are an eight lane tunnel replacement or an eight lane bridge. Costs are comparable, but the tunnel would have grades that can be easily be adapted for rapid transit if that ever becomes a future reality.
The bridge would require piers to be pile driven into Deas Slough and would overshadow the Marina Gardens residential development to the east side of the bridge. On the upside the bridge requires a year less time for environmental review, which makes the bridge time frame six to seven years from approval to completion.
The immersed tunnel would require a lower profile in the river, and would be a shorter distance, but requires three years for environmental review and a five year build out, making it an eight year process from approval to completion.
The tunnel option is in direct opposition to the strategy put forward by the previous Provincial Liberal government which more or less ignored Metro Vancouver and the Task Force of Metro Mayors’ preference for a tunnel, and embarked upon the bullish promotion of a ten lane bridge, with huge cloverleafs and massing.The Federal government will decide which of the two alternative slices of cake they prefer, but since the Task Force of Metro Vancouver Mayors have already endorsed an eight-lane immersed tunnel, that’s the likely option which will be chosen by the Federal government.
The next set of questions and concerns will be on environmental impacts, costs and timing, and when this ongoing crossing replacement will finally get the funding to go full steam ahead.
We have to wait for the 2022 Federal Budget for funding and hopefully also be in the Aftertimes of the pandemic to finally implement the new crossing.