Board of Trade endorses George Massey Tunnel replacement by 2017
January 25, 2013
The Vancouver Board of Trade is advocating for the replacement of the aging George Massey Tunnel, in an effort to increase goods and traffic movement in and out of the Metro Vancouver region.
The tunnel — which stretches from Richmond to Delta beneath the Fraser River estuary — is a critical part of the Highway 99 corridor, connecting our region to the U.S. Interstate highway system, the BC Ferries terminal in Tsawwassen, Port Metro Vancouver’s Deltaport container terminal, and Vancouver International Airport.
However, there are a number of problems with the tunnel as it exists today. Not only is the tunnel nearing the end of its service life, but it’s also operating beyond its capacity for upwards of 13 hours each day, causing traffic congestion that slows the movement of goods and people. And more traffic is coming.
In the next few years, there will likely be residential, commercial and industrial growth in the communities of Tsawwassen, Delta, Surrey and White Rock; residential, commercial and industrial growth on the Tsawwassen First Nation lands; and increased truck traffic resulting from the expansion at Deltaport. With all of this projected growth, traffic backups at the tunnel could increase for many kilometres.
But road congestion is not the only problem. When the tunnel was first built, the designers had the foresight to provide enough water depth over the tunnel to accommodate the largest ships that were then expected to use the Fraser River. Fifty years later, that expectation has dramatically changed. The tunnel is now restricting us from meeting international maritime trade requirements, and leaves our marine terminals at a disadvantage to nearby competitors.
In addition, the tunnel also poses a significant seismic risk. Designed in a time before earthquake resistance was well understood, the tunnel is vulnerable to even moderate earthquakes. And as recent events off the coast of B.C. have reminded us, much larger earthquakes could be in the offing. The loss of the tunnel before it could be replaced would throw lower mainland traffic into chaos, probably for years.
In recent months, The Vancouver Board of Trade has been working closely the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, the Delta Chamber of Commerce and the BC Chamber of Commerce to raise the profile of this important issue.
The Vancouver Board of Trade recently drafted a resolution that endorses the replacement of the George Massey Tunnel, contingent on a number of principles. The resolution has been approved by The Board of Trade’s Regional Transportation Committee and is now pending final approval from the Policy Council.
One of The Board of Trade’s key stipulations is that any replacement — whether it be a tunnel or a bridge — must be designed in a way that would allow the largest projected marine vessel to pass. Likewise, the new crossing must make provisions for public transit and bicycle traffic.
The resolution also urges that the current George Massey Tunnel be appropriately decommissioned, and that an environmental impact review be conducted with respect to both the replacement and decommissioning.
Adequate and appropriate consultation must be conducted with First Nations, neighbouring and affected municipalities, the agricultural sector, the logistics sector, the transport sector, and TransLink, reads the resolution.
The Board of Trade also suggests that the Provincial of British Columbia engage the Government of Canada and Port Metro Vancouver as potential funding partners —given this crossing’s significant importance to both maritime and land border international trade — and that alternative project delivery models be considered, such as a public-private partnership.
To read The Vancouver Board of Trade's letter to B.C.'s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, click here.