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Replace the Massey With A Bridge or a Tunnel? That is the Question


Replace the Massey With A Bridge or a Tunnel? That is the Question

Spending plans for major infrastructure projects in Metro Vancouver were recently outlined by the B.C. government, but one significant area was missing - the George Massey Tunnel. In 2013, the government announced plans to replace the tunnel with a bridge, but the project remains on hold. An examination of the area from an independent technical consultant began in spring 2018, but no results have been presented thus far.

The George Massey Tunnel primarily serves commuters, trucks and ferry-related traffic. Often called the Massey Tunnel, it is located approximately 20 kilometres south of Vancouver's city centre and roughly 30 kilometres from the Canada-United States border. Currently, the British Columbia government estimates that drivers spend more than 1 million hours each year idling in traffic while attempting to travel the tunnel. In 2016, the tunnel saw more than 86,000 daily vehicle trips.

With the new bridge expansion, greenhouse gases could be reduced by 13,000 tonnes, and commuters could save up to 30 minutes each day on travel time. Plus, fewer collisions would likely take place due to reduced congestion and improved design, the B.C. government reports. A 2017 survey from Angus Reid stated that the majority of Metro Vancouver residents -  three out of four -  support replacing the tunnel with a bridge.

While truck traffic currently accounts for a small percentage of total tunnel traffic, delivery drivers are still feeling the effects of the bottleneck. Trucks aren't currently allowed to haul hazardous goods through the tunnel below the Fraser River, which forces drivers to travel far out of the way to cross a bridge. Oversized trucks are also prohibited from travelling through the tunnel.

B.C. Trucking Association president Louise Yako said that her organization leans in favour of the bridge solution because it would remove those two restrictions. Removing the tunnel would also allow larger ships to travel upriver to the Fraser Surrey Docks. Then, trucks could be loaded there instead of at Deltaport, making the goods transport process more efficient.

Despite the benefits to commuters and truckers, the future of the bridge project remains uncertain. Questions have arisen regarding how the bridge will be paid for, whether it' s through tolls or system-wide road pricing. However, taxpayers have already spent $66 million on geotechnical and engineering work as well as public consultation and land clearing.

Transportation is an important issue for the Lower Mainland, and residents and truckers alike agree that the George Massey bottleneck must be addressed. Until the results from the independent technical consultant arrive, it appears that Vancouver truckers and residents will remain in gridlock.

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