Stephen Rees's blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Massey Tunnel

Vaughn Palmer: ‘Forces of no’ dig in for tunnel replacement ceremony

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DSCN9158There was an opinion piece by Vaughn Palmer in the Vancouver Sun yesterday which did not give anything like a balanced coverage. The protest is against spending far too much money on a “solution” that we know will not work. Not against doing something about people currently experiencing long delays to get through the tunnel at some times of day. Groups like Fraser Voices have been concerned that the bridge was decided on in the Premier’s office – and all the effort since then has been to justify a quixotic choice. All the other options – including sticking to the BC Liberals’ previous plan – are simply ignored. And then they lie about the port’s intentions to deepen the ship channel.

So I wrote a Letter to The Editor.  I am putting this out here now because I think it is very unlikely to be published.

Vaughn Palmer’s characterization of the protest at the tunnel ceremony is not accurate. There are real alternatives to the $3.5bn vanity project that have not been adequately examined.

The real problem is congestion at peak periods. Traffic through the tunnel has actually been in steady decline for the last ten years. However, the Port of Vancouver operates the container terminal on bankers’ hours. Monday to Friday 8am to 4pm. No other port operates like that. It ensures that truck traffic uses the tunnel at peak periods, and makes the congestion worse. That is deliberate. It helps the port make the case for tunnel removal. There are plenty of records available that demonstrate the Port’s long term strategy for deepening the dredging of the channel – and the tunnel prevents that. In the short term, simply banning trucks at peak periods – and opening the container collection and delivery facilities  24/7 – will relieve the present problem.

In the longer term, congestion can never be solved by widening roads. Never has done, never will do. All that does is move the line-up to somewhere else. The only way to reduce car traffic is to increase transit service. One bus can carry many more people in a given length of road than cars can. The province has already invested in bus lanes both sides of the tunnel but service needs to be increased. And when that isn’t enough, add another tube on the river bed carrying light rail.

As for the claim that the “full freight will be covered by tolls”, it has not worked for the Port Mann or the Golden Ears. Why would the Massey replacement be any different?

Written by Stephen Rees

April 6, 2017 at 12:27 pm

Fact Checking Todd Stone

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Susan Jones is a very diligent researcher, and a great source of information in matters pertaining to the Massey Tunnel Replacement Project. She circulated the following bunch of clippings to the Fraser Voices group. I thought that my readers would appreciate the following and I encourage them to spread the word.

Letter in Richmond News quotes B.C. Transportation Minister, Todd Stone, October 25, 2016

“And let me be clear – there are no plans to dredge the Fraser River.”

Richmond News: Letter: Tunnel twin more expensive, less safe says Stone

There are definitely plans to dredge 34 kilometres of the Fraser and the BC Government has been involved in the planning.  It is the $90 million Fraser River Channel Deepening Project to dredge the navigation channels from 11.5 metres to 12.8 metres.

One source of information is found on the Corporation of Delta website.

March 31, 2015          Report on:  Gateway Transportation Collaboration Forum

A letter from the Gateway Transportation Collaboration Forum to BC Government and specifically to Todd Stone:  (scrolled pages 4 and 5/49)

“Thank you for your letter dated February 2, 2015, providing support to the Gateway Transportation Collaboration Forum (GTCF) and direction for us to work with your recommended staff.

We are pleased to provide an update on the progress of the GTCF. The Steering Committee and Working Groups have been actively engaging with municipalities, First Nations and stakeholders to identify

potential gateway-related infrastructure projects of national significance in Greater Vancouver.

The British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) is participating on the forum to understand various stakeholders’ interests and support coordinated gateway planning and infrastructure development…”

Scrolled Page 17/49  – note BC Government logo at top of page

Fraser River Channel Deepening Project

Capital Dredge of the Fraser River to 12.8 m to the 34 km mark

  • A material enhancement project to increase the depth of the Fraser navigation channel, from km 0 to 34, from its current draft of 11.5 meters (m) tidal to to 12.8 (m) tidal assist.
  • The Project will allow vessels currently calling the Fraser River to be loaded to their maximum capacity and to accommodate  increased vessel draft for new growth opportunities and market demands.  Increases the capacity of the two navigational channels.”

Potential Applicant: Fraser Surrey Docks LP* (* Private sector projects pending confirmation of public-sector partnership)

Estimated Capital Cost: $90 million

Development Status: Concept Design

Potential Beneficiaries: Port Metro Vancouver, Private Sector, Canada, Province, Metro Vancouver, municipalities

Written by Stephen Rees

October 30, 2016 at 4:21 pm

Groups Call on Feds to Fund Transit, not Massey Bridge

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Press Release from The Wilderness Committee and Fraser Voices

FV LOGO colour

Open letter urges government to review project and consider alternatives

RICHMOND, BC – Community and national organizations are calling on the federal government to launch an environmental review of the proposed Massey Tunnel Replacement Project and to withhold federal infrastructure funding from the project.

Resident group Fraser Voices, the Wilderness Committee, Council of Canadians and five other organizations representing over 160,000 members and supporters have sent an open letter urging the federal government to use the money it has promised for infrastructure to fund transit projects in Metro Vancouver instead of the new 10-lane highway bridge.

“This federal money gives Canadians an opportunity to correct the mistakes of the past and build a greener future,” said De Whalen, one of the founding members of Fraser Voices. “But the Massey Bridge is imposing the same old car culture from the 1950s.”

The federal government has said it will fund environmental and social infrastructure with its $10 billion per year stimulus money. Extra vehicles resulting from the Massey Bridge and will add about seven million tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere over 50 years.

“It is irresponsible to be building new highways during a climate crisis, especially when they do nothing to ease congestion,” said Peter McCartney, Climate Campaigner for the Wilderness Committee. “Even the mayor of Houston, Texas – with its 26-lane freeway – agrees it’s time to stop building highways and build transit instead.”

Community groups are hoping the federal budget next week will include funding for the Broadway Skytrain project and Surrey LRT instead. Along Highway 99, rapid bus service could ease congestion for a fraction of the $3.5 billion price tag of the proposed Massey Bridge.

application/pdf iconOpen letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mar. 17, 2016


Written by Stephen Rees

March 17, 2016 at 10:16 am

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

Tagged with

That new bridge

with 34 comments

I apologize for driving you to a paywalled article. Francis Bula is reporting on what Geoff Freer (executive project director for the Massey project) says about replacing the tunnel and why transit won’t meet that “need”

60 per cent of the commuters are travelling to Richmond or Surrey, the U.S. border or the ferries – so are unlikely to use transit anyway.

The chutzpah of this statement takes one’s breath away.

It is not as if the Canada Line was not already changing travel patterns in Richmond. And the introduction of useful inter-regional connections to the transit system (over many years since it was entirely focussed on downtown Vancouver) with direct service to Metrotown and Newton shows that when the transit system actually looks at how people are moving, as opposed to used to move, even ordinary bus services can be successful. When I first arrived in Richmond and had to commute to Gateway in Surrey I initially tried the #410. Then it was infrequent, with a huge one way loop through Richmond wand was always very lightly loaded. Over the years it has become one of the busiest bus services in Richmond and the only one in the Frequent Transit Network.

The other huge change was when Translink backed off the long held belief  that it ought not to compete with Pacific Stage Lines and run a direct bus between the ferry at Tsawwassen and downtown Vancouver. The new service they introduced initially required a transfer to the B-Line at Airport Station, and now requires a transfer to the Canada Line at Bridgeport. It coincided with increased vehicle fares on the ferry so that walk-on traffic grew exponentially. (BC Transit had long met ferries with an express bus from Swartz Bay to downtown Victoria). The #620 now requires articulated buses and frequent relief vehicles. Just like the express bus to Horseshoe Bay.

Artic unloads at Bridgeport

As for cross border services, it would be easy to set up a “walk across the line service” at Peace Arch, with connections to Bellingham. There are just much more pressing priorities – mostly getting students to post secondary institutions thanks to UPass. But bus service across the line has seen significant commercial traffic with both Bolt bus and Quick Shuttle in head to head competition. Some of the casinos down there run their own shuttles too. The best thing that has happened so far on this route has been the introduction of a morning Amtrak train departure for Seattle.

What is actually needed is transportation planning that looks at the future pattern of development in the region, and integrates land use planning to meet population growth and travel needs. Strangely the desire of Port Authority for deeper draft for vessels in the Fraser River is not the first and foremost consideration. Port expansion is not a driver of economic growth. It is path towards calamity, since it is driven by the desires of a few very rich people to export yet more fossil fuel at a time when anyone with any sense recognizes that we as a species have no choice but to leave the carbon in the ground.

I think that one of the great benefits of rail transit development would be protection of the last bits of highly productive agricultural land left after the ruinous performance of the BC Liberals to date. People riding on trains get fast frequent service through areas which see no development at all, because it is concentrated around the stations. What part of Transit Oriented Development do you NOT understand, Mr Freer? Expand the freeway and sprawl follows almost inevitably.

Trains like this one serve the region beyond the Ile de France, and provide fast direct services for longer distances. The much faster TGV serves the intercity market.

It is perhaps a bit hard for people here to understand the idea of fast frequent electric trains that are not subways or SkyTrain, but they are a feature of most large city regions – even in America. As we saw in yesterday’s post even LA is bringing back the interurban. West Coast Express is not a good model as it only serves commuting to downtown on weekdays. All day every day bi-drectional service demands dedicated track – or at least the ability to confine freight movements to the hours when most people are asleep.

New Jersey Transit provides statewide services to the suburbs and exurbs of the New York region

Transit to Delta and South Surrey has to be express bus for now, just because there is so much catch up in the rest of the region. But in the longer term, really good, fast, longer distance electric trains – which can actually climb quite steep grades equivalent to roads over bridges – must be part of planning how this region grows. It requires a bit better understanding of the regional economy than just assuming that somehow coal and LNG exports will secure our future, when they obviously do no such thing.

One picture worth a thousand words

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Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 11.21.52 AM

This image comes from the South Delta Leader – and their credit simply reads “via Twitter”

Written by Stephen Rees

May 9, 2013 at 11:27 am