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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for February 2016

Fraser Voices

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That is the name that a small group, unified its opposition to megabridge Massey Tunnel replacement project chose for itself last night. The forces of No once again facing up to the deceptions of the Christy Clark government.


There are two contributions from that group this morning. The first is the GMTRP brief draft prepared by Nicholas Wong – a substantial document that may get some updating and, if it does, will get replaced by later versions over time. For now here is the first paragraph of the Executive Summary, which should convince you it is worth your time to read the whole thing: the brief deals only with the traffic, seismic, and pricing concerns and thus leaves a whole raft of issues unexamined

The GMTRP has been plagued by contradictory or absent information. In such an environment, it is impossible to form an educated opinion of the project. To explore the systematic nature of the political deception surrounding the bridge proposal, three broad areas were explored: traffic, seismic safety standards, and budgetary concerns. The conclusion being that removing the GMT is unnecessary and a poor economic choice to alleviate traffic congestion or to address any of the stated project goals. The only advantage to removing the GMT is to allow larger ships up the Fraser River indicating that the tolled crossing is designed as a subsidy for the export industry.

The second is the text of a report which was adopted by the Richmond Council General Purposes Committee last Monday and will go to Richmond Council for final vote this coming Monday.

To: Mayor and Council                                                            Date: February 10, 2016

From: Harold Steves                                                               File: 10-6350-05-08

Re: George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project

Richmond Council is concerned about the abrupt change in direction from upgrading the George Massey Tunnel to building a bridge. Richmond Council was fully consulted on the publicly announced plan to twin the tunnel. Richmond Council was not consulted on the decision to change the plan to building a bridge.

The following attachments show how the project changed abruptly from a tunnel to a bridge:

1) July 15, 2004 Massey Tunnel seismic upgrade. Province to spend $22.2 million on seismic upgrade for the Massey Tunnel.

2) Feb. 16, 2006 Twinned tunnel part of Victoria’s long-term plan, “expandingHighway 99 on both sides of the tunnel from four lanes to six.”   “The project is on the back burner in part because it would put pressure on traffic bottlenecks to the north requiring expansion of the Oak Street and Knight Street bridges into Vancouver or a new bridge into Burnaby.

3) Feb. 18, 2006 Massey Tunnel will be twinned and “widened from four lanes to six once the provinces more pressing transportation projects are complete.”  “Twinning the tunnel would also require improvements to other crossings over the North Arm of the Fraser, such as Oak Street and Knight Street bridges, or a new crossing to connect with growing central Burnaby.”

4) Dec 11, 2008 BUS LANE WILL SPEED TRANSIT commute along Highway 99  with ” high quality, point to point service … between White Rock and Richmond. A “$4.7 million contract” was awarded “to build the four metre wide shoulder bus lane.

5) Feb. 2, 2012 “BC Government meets with Port Metro Vancouver, Surrey Fraser Docks and Engineers to plan George Massey Tunnel Replacement Bridge”

6) Nov. 19, 2012 “Clearances for potential new river crossing” “We should consider future terminals. For example liquid bulk tankers, with large air draft requirements(e.g. LNG)” ….. “We need to consider future terminals such as VAFFC, Lehigh, and possible terminal at our Richmond properties.”

7) Dec. 4, 2012 “Tunnel: Depth required is 15.5 metres below geodetic datum for 50 year life expectancy and 18.5 metres below for 100 year life expectancy.”

8) March 19, 2015 The 14 billion transit plan the BC Liberals conveniently forgot.

9) Nov. 5, 2015 Stone insists Massey bridge process is proper.

The Province spent $22.2 million on a seismic upgrade on the Massey Tunnel in 2004, announced the tunnel would be twinned in 2006, and announced rapid  bus in 2008. Studies were done that justified twinning the tunnel and improving public transit. It was noted that the carrying capacity of the Oak Street Bridge and other bridges was limited and therefore the tunnel should only be six lanes. Rapid Bus would reduce traffic and reduce GHG’s. Richmond Council was opposed to both a No. 8 Road Bridge to Delta and a bridge to Boundary Road in Burnaby because it would do irreparable damage to Richmond East farmland. The Rapid Bus system resolved that problem.

What caused the province to suddenly change from a tunnel with public transit to a bridge without it?
The FOI information from Doug Massey shows a concerted effort was made in 2012 by Fraser Surrey Docks and Port Metro Vancouver and others to have the tunnel removed to accommodate deep draft Panamex supertankers. The BC Government met with them to discuss tunnel removal on Feb 2, 2012, future terminals at VAFFC, Lehigh and a new one in Richmond, including liquid bulk tankers (e.g. LNG); and the need to dredge the river to 15.5 metres on Dec. 4, 2012.  Secondly the more conservative members in the Liberal Caucus appear to have gained control in the 2013 election.

On Nov 5, 2015 Todd Stone admitted that they did not yet have a business case for a bridge, Now the reason is clear. It appears that the  province changed their plans to permit the industrialization of the Fraser River by Port Metro Vancouver. They did not have a business plan for a bridge because the business case was for twinning the tunnel and providing Rapid Bus.


That the City of Richmond request that the Provincial Government provide copies of all reports and studies – including but not limited to business plans, feasibility studies, technical studies, seismic studies, and/or environmental impact studies – that relate to the original plan to twin the George Massey Tunnel and/or provide Rapid Bus service that were considered during the period from 2006 to 2008; and that if necessary, that the foregoing request be made as an official Freedom of Information request.

The report attracted no attention at all from the Richmond News, but a great deal of media attention is being paid to the Metro Vancouver decision to ask for more time to consider the proposal

Written by Stephen Rees

February 19, 2016 at 11:24 am

Posted in Transportation

BC’s Next Transit Referendum (& One You’ve Likely Never Heard Of)

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Lawn sign on Gabriola Island


We all know what happened with that rather unfortunate (insert additional adjectives of your choice here) transit referendum that occurred last spring in Metro Vancouver.

What you may not be aware of is that there’s another transit referendum happening right now on Gabriola Island, BC, a 20 minute ferry ride from downtown Nanaimo in BC’s Gulf Islands archipelago. Between now and general voting day next Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, islanders are set to head to the polls to say whether they support establishing an ongoing contribution from property taxes to fund transit in their community.

Read more on Connecting Dots the personal blog of Tania Wegwitz, who also happens to be the Manager of Planning for BC Transit. I have only just become aware of her blog and, from the quick glance through it so far, I am very happy to add it to my blogroll.

UPDATE “40% of eligible voters came out today to vote for GERTIE! 66.9% in favour”

Written by Stephen Rees

February 12, 2016 at 8:07 am

Posted in transit

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There’s nothing clean about the Site C dam

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There is something wrong in BC. There is a provincial general election coming up (May 2017) and the premier seems to be determined to secure her legacy by building mega-projects of dubious or even negative value before she gets kicked out of office. Hopefully, the new government in Ottawa will do something to restrain this effort to change the face of BC before more damage is done.


Copied from Amnesty International

Open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:
Canadian organizations condemn Peace River hydroelectric mega-project for human rights violations

Dear Prime Minister,

Our organizations are profoundly concerned that construction of the Site C dam is being pushed ahead despite the conclusion of a joint federal-provincial environmental assessment that it would severely and permanently undermine Indigenous peoples’ use of the land; harm rare plants and other biodiversity; make fishing unsafe for at least a generation; and submerge burial grounds and other crucial cultural and historical sites.

The Site C dam is not just another resource development project. It is one of the largest such projects currently underway in Canada. For First Nations such as West Moberly and Prophet River, which continue to challenge the project in court, flooding the Peace Valley would take away one of the last remaining places where they can still practice their cultures and traditions. In other words, it would violate fundamental rights protected by Treaty 8, the Canadian Constitution, and international human rights law.

When the federal and provincial governments approved the project, they claimed that the severe harm that would be caused by Site C was ‘justified’ by the energy and the jobs it will produce. We strongly disagree.

Ignoring the rights of Indigenous peoples can never be justified. Furthermore, in this day and age there are far less damaging and less costly methods that could be used to meet British Columbia’s energy needs – many of which would create more jobs than Site C.

Last month, Canada played a crucial role in achieving an historic global accord on climate change. The Paris Agreement calls on governments to increase the use of renewable energy but also reaffirmed the obligation of all governments to acknowledge and respect human rights, including the rights of Indigenous peoples.

In other words, energy projects that violate human rights are not clean or green.

Prime Minister, we urge you and your Cabinet to put the principles you championed in Paris into practice in Canada. We urge that construction of the Site C dam be halted immediately, that all permits be rescinded, and that the previous government’s approval of this project be re-examined. It is crucial that the federal and provincial governments work collaboratively with the Indigenous peoples of the region to reach common agreement on a long-term plan to protect Indigenous land use in the Peace Valley.

The people of Treaty 8 have said no to Site C. Any government that is truly committed to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, to respecting human rights, and to promoting truly clean energy must listen.


Alliance 4 Democracy
The Anglican Eco-Justice Unit, Diocese of New Westminster
Amnesty International Canada
Blue Planet Project
BC Women’s Institute
Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion – BROKE
Canadian Federation of Students
Canadian Friends Service Committee
Council of Canadians
Christian Peacemakers Team, Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Project
Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) Vancouver
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS)
David Suzuki Foundation
Greenpeace Canada
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
Peace Valley Environment Association
Peace Valley Landowner Association
RAVEN (Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs)
Skeena Wild Conservation Trust
Sierra Club BC
West Coast Environmental Law
Wilderness Committee
Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative

Written by Stephen Rees

February 11, 2016 at 8:34 am

Posted in energy, Environment, politics

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You still have five days left to comment

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Massey Bridge

The last post to this blog was about the proposed replacement of the Massey Tunnel by a massive bridge. A small group of people have been getting together to try and co-ordinate activity opposing the province’s proposal. This is what we have so far:

Urgent Deadline for Public Comments on George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project

Please Act Now                     DEADLINE FEBRUARY 15, 2016

The B.C. Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) is requesting public comments on the valued components in the environmental assessment for the Massey Tunnel Replacement Project.


Click on the RealMasseyTunnelHearings link below.  There is a form for you to submit your comments.  You can write your comments there or prepare ahead and copy and paste into the space provided.  The site provides some information for you consider and there is more below.


Visit Real Massey Tunnel Hearings to get a quick overview of some of the concerns people have identified with this project. You can send your comments to the EAO directly through the website, and they will be automatically forwarded to our municipal, provincial and federal elected representatives.  This is our best chance for building awareness of public concerns about this proposal.

Some Points:


  • The impacts of this Project are far-reaching and should include a Review Panel federal environmental assessment.
  • More information is needed and there should be a future opportunity for input on Scoping and Valued Components before the Application is allowed to proceed,
  • The Project is too large and too expensive
  • Traffic Congestion will increase at the Oak Street and Knight Street Bridges
  • The Project information fails to recognize the national and international significance of the Fraser River Estuary for salmon, sturgeon, eulachons, endangered whales and migratory birds of the Pacific Flyway.
  • A 45% percent increase in truck traffic in this region is unacceptable and credible alternatives are available.
  • The Project will have a negative impact on regional air quality.


The following are more specific points for your information.


Definition of Valued Component


“For the purpose of environmental assessment in BC, Valued Components (VCs) are components of the natural and human environment that are considered by the proponent, public, Aboriginal groups, scientists and other technical specialists, and government agencies involved in the assessment process to have scientific, ecological, economic, social, cultural, archaeological, historical, or other importance.”


Page 4: EAO: Guideline for the Selection of Valued Components and Assessment of Potential Effects



Valued Components Commentary


  • The Open Houses and public information document, ‘Project Description and Key Areas of Study’ have failed to provide sufficient information for the public to make informed comments on the Scope and Valued Components of the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project (GMTR).


  • The B.C. Environmental Assessment process states scoping should be prepared by the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office prior to request for public input on the scope and valued components:


“Issues scoping should begin early in project planning, before initial regulatory submissions, such as the Project Description and draft AIR, are made, as the information gained during issues scoping will inform not only the selection of VCs but also the determination of the scope of the assessment…”

(Note: AIR – Application Information Requirements)


Page 8: EAO: Guideline for the Selection of Valued Components and Assessment of Potential Effects

  • There needs to be a future opportunity for public comment on a credible document which clearly outlines the Scope and Valued Components as identified by the Proponent; the BC Ministry of Transportation; the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office; the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency; Transport Canada; the Canadian Ministry of Environment and Climate Change; and Health Canada; and Public Safety Canada.


  • While the document claims engagement has taken place with Provincial and Federal regulatory agencies, no information is provided as to Scope and Valued Components.  It states that will come later.  The public and municipalities cannot be expected to comment on Scope and Valued Components without any substantive information from the government agencies.  As Scoping and identification of Valued Components are essential to the environmental assessment, the public must be afforded an opportunity to provide comment once these have been credibly identified with supporting documentation.


  • The information is incomplete as it does not include the requirement of environmental assessment pursuant to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Due to the importance of the Fraser River Estuary and the cumulative impacts of this Project and several other past, current, and planned projects, a Review Panel Environmental Assessment should be required., Some reasons for the requirement of a federal assessment:

Ø  Decommissioning of the Massey Tunnel

Ø  Length of the new bridge

Ø  Requirements under the Fisheries Act, Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Navigation Protection Act, Species at Risk Act, Migratory Bird, Environment Protection Act etc.

Ø  Ecological and social upstream and downstream effects – scour and infill processes

Ø  Endangered and threatened streams critical to viable fish habitats and migratory birds

Ø  Watercourses that support fish and fish habitat

Ø  Effects on the salt wedge

Ø  Impacts on interactive, interdependent riparian habitats between the shoreline and the Fraser River critical to viable fish habitats and species at risk

Ø  Impacts to water quality of the Fraser River and adjacent communities

Ø  Permits and approvals that are required for the Project – need to identify and list

Ø  Effects on navigation in the Fraser River and the shipping route to the open Pacific

Ø  First Nations interests, information,  land use, Fraser River use and claims

Ø  National, provincial and international designations recognizing international ecological significance of the Fraser River Estuary

Ø  Cumulative effects of past, current and planned Projects on the South Arm of the Fraser

Ø  Hydro technical impacts

Ø  Health of fisheries and potential impacts on commercial fishing

Ø  Need for a risk analysis to address uncertain residual effect predictions


  • National and international significance of the Fraser River Estuary for fish species, migratory and resident birds and endangered whales needs to be included.  The lower Fraser Estuary is a declared RAMSAR site which means it is an internationally- recognized Wetlands.  The area is also a designated site in the Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network as well as the site of the top three Most Important Bird Areas in Canada.


  • The information is incomplete as it does not identify federal, provincial, regional and municipal land plans, codes, regulations, standards, and initiatives such as Official Community Plans, Regional Growth and Sustainability Strategies, Climate Action Plans, archaeological information and numerous other initiatives.  The document states it is reviewing some of these documents but no specifics are provided.


  • The information is incomplete as it does not identify effects on cross boundary agreements and initiatives which may be affected by the Project.


  • The Project Rationale should include information on alternative options – continue upgrading and retaining the Massey Tunnel; twinning the tunnel; or building a much smaller bridge.


  • The section on traffic congestion claims truck traffic will double by 2045.  This reason should not be supported in terms of air pollution and safety.  Alternatives to increased truck movements (such as inland transloading at Ashcroft) should be presented to the public.


  • The section on traffic congestion should include the problem of moving congestion from the Massey Tunnel to the Oak Street and Knight Street Bridges.


  • Project Benefits are just descriptive.  They need to be substantiated with credible studies.   They ignore many public valued components such as clean air, protection of farmland, and use of tax dollars.


  • Impacts of Bridge Height should be included – safety, ice, interference with migratory birds of the Pacific Flyway, Sandhill Cranes, night hunters and the largest number of wintering raptors in Canada.


  • Impacts of preloading, highway construction, and decommissioning of the tunnel are descriptive and fail to identify valued components.


  • Specific information on the installation of pilings and potential impacts should be included – depth, procedures, safety, noise pollution and impacts on fish and wildlife habitat.


  • A safety risk assessment for the Massey Tunnel during construction needs to be included.  Continuous drilling and vibrations have the potential to impact the tunnel making it potentially unsafe.


  • Project costs of $3.5 billion should be itemized with information of how the Project will be funded.  A Cost/Benefit Analysis and a Feasibility Study should have been provided at the earliest stages of this assessment.  Use of tax dollars is a valued component that needs to be transparent.


  • While the document claims Aboriginal Group Engagement, no information is provided for the opportunity to comment on valued components.


  • Changes in Fraser River hydraulics, water quality and sediment are identified.  These valued components should include permits required by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the need for a federal environmental assessment.


  • Fish and fish habitat are not correctly identified.  This section should include studies done over the years by the Fraser River Estuary Management Program that include habitat classifications.  Areas of the bridge project include important riparian habitats.  These are coded red which are shoreline areas having highly productive habitat.  Credible evidence needs to be provided for blanket statements of “low aquatic habitat values.”


  • Species at Risk such as the White Sturgeon and Coho Salmon should be identified and included.  This should trigger a federal environmental assessment.


  • Underwater noise may affect marine mammals.  This section should include recent studies that find noise effects whales more than previously understood.


  • There will be negative Impacts on wildlife from noise and light pollution during construction and as a result of the Project.  Night hunters will be permanently impacted.  This is a valued component.


  • Vegetation in the area of the Project is varied.  Ditches, old streams and water courses support rare or at-risk species.  These valued components should have been identified in this section.


  • Habitat for endangered Pacific Water Shrew and Barn Owl will be impacted.  This project will add to the ongoing loss of critical habitats in the Fraser River Estuary.


  • The following statement on air quality is an opinion:

“The Project is expected to result in an improvement in air quality, especially in the vicinity of the Tunnel, as a result of improved traffic flow, since vehicles driving at highway speeds consume less fuel and generate lower emissions. In addition, the new bridge is elevated above ground level, allowing airflow over the top and beneath the bridge, which contributes to improved dispersion of pollutants.”


Congestion will move to the Richmond bridges causing pollution in other areas.  Doubling truck traffic by 2045 is not going to improve air quality as stated in this section.

  • Air quality is a valued component that needs more information than is provided here to the public.  With all the studies and work over the past few years, the public deserves specific, credible, referenced information.


  • Impacted farmland and environmentally sensitive areas should be specifically identified.  Anticipated no net loss of farmland and expected benefits are meaningless without substantive information.


  • Impacts on human health should include stress with ongoing construction: congestion, air pollution, light pollution, noise pollution.


  • An environmental risk assessment is a valued component that should be included.


  • The information provided to the public fails to meet the principles of transparency, participation, credibility, and purpose that have been established by the International Association for Impact Assessment.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 10, 2016 at 1:03 pm

Posted in Transportation

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