Business & Economy
September 6, 2017

Massey Bridge Scuttled for New Process Inclusive of the Metro Vancouver Region


You would think that a large metropolitan region like Metro Vancouver would have a good relationship with the Provincial government and it would be in everyone’s interest to promote good thoughtful transportation across this region. That has not been in the case in the past, where an overbuilt ten lane bridge was being planned on the unique and sensitive Fraser River delta which also holds the most arable soils in Canada. Quite simply, the building of this bridge would solve “congestion” experienced going through the current George Massey Tunnel, but would move that “congestion” along to other parts of the same system, especially towards Richmond and Vancouver. What this bridge would do is reinforce the 20th century notion of the region’s future growth as being dependent on truck traffic from the Port Metro Vancouver’s Deltaport, and would increase the  industrialization of the banks of  the Fraser River. Unlike every other port in North America, Port Metro Vancouver does not operate 24 hours a day, and truck traffic is not restricted through the tunnel at peak times. And when a large truck stalls in the tunnel during rush hours, there’s a huge delay, especially if specialized tow equipment needs to be brought in.
CBC reports that   the Provincial government is putting the Massey Bridge on hold, and  “launching an independent technical review to explore best options going forward.” The current procurement process for building the bridge has also been cancelled. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena states “”We want to look at the different options. There was a sense that not all options were thoroughly examined.” 
And here is the best part-in terms of Massey Crossing options,  “We want one that will get the approval of not just the engineers, but people who live and work in the region.”
This major rethink on the tunnel replacement  was not in the NDP’s  campaign prior to the provincial election, but does recognize the importance of working with the region, not just industrial and commercial interests on regional transportation infrastructure.  Working together and ensuring all interests are represented enables everyone to move towards good connected regional transportation.

 

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In the same way that on-line shopping trends and changing retail tastes are taking a bite out of the stand-alone shopping mall, there are other industries that will be similarly impacted-most notably for Metro Vancouver, the Port of Vancouver’s shipping. As reported in Business in Vancouver grain shipments and containerized cargo has had an increase of four per cent versus the same period of time last year, but the way cargo is managed is drastically morphing.
The challenge for the Port and other ports in North America  is the tremendous sea change in how global freight is moved, and also how that freight is handled.  “In its 2017 Port, Airport and Global Infrastructure seaport outlook for North America, real estate and investment management firm Jones Lang Lasalle lists five trends to watch in the freight and logistics services arena. Among the five are bigger ships and bigger shipping line alliances. Both will place enormous pressure on port cargo efficiency and infrastructure because they will concentrate the number of container ship dockings in larger vessels at fewer ports.”
This is going to require efficient loading and distribution centres, which means more industrial land beside the port for distribution centres, similar to the logistics centre on the Tsawwassen First Nations land besides Delta port. Metro Vancouver’s very low vacancy rate of 2.7 per cent for industrial land has meant that  commercial real estate groups are looking longingly at land in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) as the way to procure property for distribution centres. The Port of Vancouver  has also been optioning agricultural land in the ALR for potential industrial expansion, using senior government status to option agricultural land at values far more than property owners can achieve selling for agricultural use.  And the Port is not looking for a tiny bit of agricultural turf-as previously reported in the Vancouver Sun Port Metro Vancouver’s land use plan is looking for 930 hectares of space,  “more than 10 times what the port now has in reserve.”
The Port already owns about 1,457 hectares of land of which only about 81 acres, the Gilmore Farm in Richmond is undeveloped. While the Port is renewing its farming leases on the land, the City of Richmond worries that this agricultural land  will soon be transferred into Port industrial usage.
It’s an interesting conundrum-how do you  maintain access to the most arable farmland in Canada and make it so that farmers can own it and farm it? How do you  restrain McMansions from usurping this land as private estates? And how do you address the fact that the Port can claim “higher authority” as a federal governmental body and pay off agricultural land owners with much higher values than that received on the farm land market?  And is the insatiable appetite of the port for stockpiling goods and distributing them going to remain the same in a time of  e-commerce and disruptive technology?
Port Metro Vancouver’s CEO has said “Without suitable land, we will not be able to deliver economic growth to support the growing population. And without careful planning, we will not be able to make best use of the land we manage.”

 

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Vancouver Sun Image
From CBC via Price Tags Editor Ken Ohrn is the notification that “four of the five members of the Transportation Investment Corporation board, which oversees B.C.’s Port Mann Bridge, have been removed by the provincial government.” 
That’s right- “In an Order In Council formally approved on Friday, chair Daniel Doyle and directors Anne Stewart, Clifford Neufeld and former finance minister Colin Hansen had their appointments rescinded.” One person remains, Irene Kerr who is the CEO of TI Corp and will be on the board until the end of 2018. TI Corp is the governmental creation that managed the construction of the bridge and the subsequent tolling on this and the Golden Ears Bridge.

While the Port Mann is not making money as projected from tolls, it is still projected to pay for itself . The 2017 B.C. budget suggested that losses of  $88 million dollars in 2017 and $90 million dollars in 2018 are expected. The TI Corp was also to provide “support” for the implementation of the ‘George Massey Tunnel Replacement  Project-when will he NDP government be announcing what they are doing with that vast overbuilt  project?
Meanwhile south of the Fraser  City of Richmond Councillor Carol Day supports the transit idea of the  Mayor of Delta who was pleading for a ten lane bridge, and for a rapid transit connection to get that bridge. Councillor Day calls the refusal of the Mayors’ Council to consider rapid transit to Delta  the “special sort of short sightedness that is iconic of Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. This creates a piecemeal approach to infrastructure that approves individual projects in isolation of one another without sufficient consideration of the future.”
Councillor Day further notes: “Mayor Jackson is absolutely right in saying that we have to think about building capacity for 75 years into the future rather than merely extending existing transit lines. We will be able to plan out a much more efficient transit network if all current and potential projects support each other and a unified vision.” 
It is going to be an interesting time as the new Provincial government reviews and unravels the truths and myths about the Massey Tunnel crossing, and evaluates what will work  best for the Fraser River crossing in Delta-where, how, and why.
 

Richmond News Image
 
 

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Back to the south side  of the Fraser River where positional information on the Massey Tunnel and Bridge appears daily.  The latest is reported in the Delta Optimist  where the Mayor of Delta has added another reason for the support of an overbuilt bridge on the sensitive Fraser River delta-it could have light rapid transit. But, just like the Mayors’ Council’s lack of support for this behemoth of a bridge, the rest of Metro Vancouver nixed that.
Here’s what the Delta Mayor said:  “I’ve been trying to press this with the mayors for a long time in that it makes sense to take the Canada Line and run it south, over a bridge, and it’s meant to do that, accommodates that. The idea being maybe go out to the ferry terminal, with stops in Ladner and Tsawwassen. Most importantly, it would go through all the southern area, as opposed to the northern area where the Expo Line goes through Surrey”.
We have to look ahead 75 years. It’s a great way to connect communities. I was pretty much poo pooed because they said they want everything on the table. They want, for instance, the Evergreen Line extended. They don’t want even a planning concept forward for a line that will pick up hundreds of thousands of people through that great burgeoning area of Surrey that travel by car everywhere because there’s no option”.
So why after the support of the massive ten lane bridge is the Mayor of Delta so bullish on rapid transit? Because if a bridge connecting Delta and Richmond is built, “LRT could run down the middle of the freeway”.
Meanwhile City of Richmond Councillor Harold Steves stated: “The 10 lane bridge is not designed for LRT. Under FOI (freedom of information) Richmond received 1400 pages of bridge plans and a special report on LRT on May 8th. The LRT report states that because of the scattered population LRT would not have enough ridership to warrant putting LRT on the bridge. That would certainly be even more true with a 10 lane bridge.”
Richmond Councillor Steves is getting a little miffed at the Corporation of Delta’s continued one side clamouring for a bridge. Even the  CTV is reporting on the “fake news” Delta is propagating with their $35,000 budget going towards advertising their point of view on newspapers and online. They have even bought the domain “weneedabridge.ca” to garner support for their project. Full page newspaper ads tell readers that “the existing tunnel cannot be sufficiently seismically upgraded,” and would not be “physically capable of withstanding a moderate to severe earthquake.”
“This ad is a really great example of fake news. They’ve taken facts that aren’t in context and put them together to tell us something that isn’t real, Councillor Harold Steves said.”

 
 
 

 

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From the Daily Scot, Scot Bathgate informs us that the City of Richmond has officially asked the Province of B.C. to cancel the Massey Bridge project. As reported by the CBC the Mayor of Richmond is sure that  no ten lane bridge is needed. Of course the Mayor of Delta is still talking about congestion and bottlenecks and the need for a bridge, using doomsday logic to scare users out of the tunnel.
Add in the Provincial Green Party and leader Andrew Weaver who has already stated that there probably won’t be a Massey Bridge as a priority.
Mix together, stir,  watch this CBC video and place your bets for  
-what will be constructed;
-how many lanes;
-and what timelines.
 
It’s a new day.

 
 

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There is now direct crossing controversy in Delta where the editor of the Delta Optimist has gone on record favouring the option of an overbuilt Massey Bridge for safety reasons-strangely advocating exactly the points put forward by the Delta Mayor and City Manager in their thousands of dollars paid ad in the Vancouver Sun. This crossing upgrade is not supported by the Mayors’ Council or Metro Vancouver. Commenters immediately took the editor to task as being a spokesman for the Corporation of Delta.
The editor said: “Delta has focused its persuasion efforts on the need to safeguard the public and the economy, particularly as it relates to the tunnel’s seismic situation, as well as the costs and shortcomings of other crossing options…it’s not technically feasible to upgrade the tunnel to meet current seismic standards, a finding of a report done a decade ago after the first phase of seismic work had been undertaken. A more recent report says the tunnel would only be able to withstand a one-in-275-year earthquake, which is far below today’s one-in-2,475-year standard. As far as building a new tunnel rather than a bridge, a favourite rallying cry of project opponents, reports in Delta’s package show it would be more costly ($4.3 billion vs. $3.5 billion), have greater environmental impacts and take far longer to get the necessary approvals.”
Now  there IS a response from Delta residents that believe they have been (no pun intended) railroaded into a bridge that does not serve their purposes. As one reader noted he was aghast that Delta would speak for the taxpayers of that municipality without asking them. As the reader wrote “In the bridge case, there is ample evidence that the community is very disturbed at the prospect of this huge bridge” and asked for some direct community consultation.
Meanwhile in Richmond a letter writer to the Richmond News noted  “There is no doubt the Fraser crossing needs to be improved in order to be effective for all traffic and transit needs. However, the safety record of the tunnel speaks for itself. If “the potential for a catastrophic failure of the tunnel is real,” why are the Dutch with a similar and older tunnel not concerned with its safety?” The writer also noted that in an earthquake “The road system as it exists will fail before the tunnel will. In the event of a serious earthquake, it will make no difference if a bridge is safer than a tunnel. The bridge, should it survive, will not serve any purpose. If Richmond has the catastrophic results that are predicted with an earthquake of this magnitude, the crossing will be inaccessible and irrelevant…The fact is that in a seismic event as major as this report discusses, the real issue of the crossings will be how to evacuate and support the affected areas and people, not the economy of Delta or Surrey.”

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The CBC reports on a rather sensible potential solution to reducing traffic south of the Fraser River through “short sea shipping”. Terry Engler who is a longshoreman and a   Vancouver union president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 400 noted that  “limiting truck traffic coming from nearby port terminals south of the Fraser River is key to reducing traffic.”
“This would make everything easier for everyone, including the truck drivers, because they don’t make money when they’re stuck in traffic,” said Engler.”
Using a series of barges on navigable waters, up to 100 containers can be transported on each vessel to move goods from the Fraser River port to municipalities through a “network of unloading terminals.” Instead of trucks carrying goods to Deltaport, the distances trucks would have to travel would be significantly reduced, which would in turn ease congestion.
“We have one of the best places in the world for navigable waters,” said Engler. “We should use them safely and properly … This is a way that would make more sense than building more bridges and having more trucks driving.”
The CBC interview discussing this type of shipping is available here.

 
 
 
 
 

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Ted Murphy  of the Delta Optimist ponders what is going to happen to those plans for the  George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project, saying it is on “a death watch”. He also notes that  “many will be rejoicing at the prospect of the $3.5-billion undertaking not moving forward.”
I  am not sure people are “rejoicing” at the prospect of the Massey Bridge being shelved, but anything that will  impact the  sensitive river delta, the agricultural land, and was voted against by every mayor on the Mayors Council  (save one) should have a solid rethink. Are there other locations that this crossing that should be bolstered? Why do we keep throwing our hands in the air about “congestion”? Why are we not encouraging ride share incentives  and rapid transit/bus options? Why are we still not asking the Port of Vancouver to be a good corporate citizen and be part of the solution? But never mind. Back to Mr Murphy.
Should the NDP-Green coalition form a razor-thin majority, it will have the votes needed to kill the massive infrastructure project, which is most definitely the prerogative of the party – or, in this case, parties – in power. Should that happen, the obvious question is: What’s the alternative? What’s being said by opponents doesn’t offer much comfort on that front, let alone make a lot of sense.”
“One of the popular arguments is that building a bridge would just move the morning bottleneck to the Oak Street Bridge. That ignores traffic counts that show almost 60 per cent of vehicles heading northbound through the tunnel on a weekday morning will end their journey in Richmond, never making it as far as one of the three bridges across the north arm of the Fraser.”
“It also conveniently overlooks the fact the Oak Street Bridge has absolutely nothing to do with lengthy southbound lineups for the tube every afternoon. The tunnel is a bottleneck all on its own and a plan needs to be developed to address the situation.”
Why don’t we have a Port Mann tunnel, a Golden Ears tunnel or even one other tunnel in the area? Nearing its 60th birthday, the George Massey Tunnel has struggled to cope with traffic volumes for decades now…and others  (must)  come up with a plan that not only satisfies their supporters, but commuters as well.”

 

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Richmond’s Garden City Conservation outline two initiatives impacting the vital Fraser River estuary which passes through Richmond and Delta.  A citizens’ group has partnered with Ecojustice and the municipalities of Surrey and New Westminster  to stop thermal coal from being shipped.  Thermal coal is dirty coal in two ways-it is shipped in open box cars that are sprayed, but still leave a residue on properties and housing. The end use of thermal coal is also for heating, a source of air pollution, and mining it has detrimental impacts on the environment.

Price Tags has reported on Port Metro Vancouver’s proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2 which will allow even bigger ships to be loaded on an artificial island at the mouth of the Fraser. This manmade island will take out vital habitat for the western sandpiper that relies on a certain biofilm for most of its migratory  feeding at this location. Perhaps as a way to smooth federal approval of Roberts Bank Terminal 2, the Port is now saying that they are going to do less dredging in the Fraser River ship channel, stating that it is too cost prohibitive. But as Garden City Conservation observes “If the port doesn’t have to include the environmental impact of dredging as a “cumulative effect” of projects in the estuary, it has a better chance of getting Terminal 2  approved. After that assessment, the port could consider deeper dredging again.”

While discussing the Fraser River estuary Garden City Conservation also brings up the Massey Tunnel discussion, suggesting that new “green tubes” to supplement the four lane “legacy tube” be placed further east upriver potentially connecting with Richmond’s Nelson Road. This location leads towards Highway 91 and has minimal impact on the most arable soils in Canada. These new “green tubes” can divert traffic from the “legacy tubes” during renovations. There is a massive volume of materials that need to be gone through from the Massey Bridge project, and it is hoped that a Provincial environmental impact assessment will be properly conducted.

 

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It is no surprise that as soon as a potential pause was suggested for the Massey Bridge (now approaching 12 billion dollars with financing costs) that fear mongering would come out, as noted in the Delta Optimist. It is one of those things that is going to look very odd to future generations in Metro Vancouver. Here was a massive bridge being placed on the sensitive floodplain and on the most arable soils in Canada, ostensibly protected by the Agricultural Land Reserve. The placement of the bridge was counter to the Mayors’ Council and to Metro Vancouver, and contained no infrastructure to enable rapid public transit. The Liberal government trotted out that it was being built for “congestion” despite the fact that the Port does not operate on a 24 hour time-table like every other port in North America, and that trucking is allowed through the tunnel even at rush hours. The tunnel which is very similar to ones used in Europe all of a sudden was said to not be earthquake-proof, even though earlier studies showed it was.
Many assumed that the bridge was being built to accommodate the draft of larger ships up the Fraser, and indeed documentation has been obtained suggesting this. Recently released materials now suggest that the cost of dredging may be astronomical, which again suggests that twinning the tunnels may be the prudent option.
Green leader Andrew Weaver has suggested that a second tunnel would be a more inexpensive option, and that a new bridge may not be part of the overall metro Vancouver transportation plan. In a moment of clarity that was so lacking from the Liberals going into the election, Weaver noted “that what is needed is a comprehensive strategy in Metro Vancouver for transportation that includes public transportation, bridge retrofits, and may include a second tunnel.”
A cogent response is here from Malcolm Johnston.  He states:  “Fake news is endemic in today’s world, especially if one does not get one’s way politically…The now reported $12 billion bridge was strictly a political decision and abandoning its construction will, once again, be a political decision…With the Port Authority, now seemingly washing their hands of bringing Panama Max. tankers and colliers up the Fraser, due to the cost of dredging the South Arm, the need for this “back of an envelope” designed mega bridge is gone. What is desperately needed is sound and honest transportation planning for the Vancouver/Richmond and South Delta/Surrey and not … designed to benefit friends of the government, who “pay to play”.

 

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