Bridge for Port Metro or MasseyPlus for us?

Update: The provincial government wants to start a new bridge in 2017. Bad decision.

As you may recall, the Massey Tunnel liquefaction upgrade and the new Steveston Interchange were meant to happen long ago. The tunnel “replacement” project is a chance to get them done.

The project is also a chance to go back to the future. In 1955, ’91 and ’95, there were comparative studies of bridge and tunnel options for the South Arm highway crossing, also known as the Fraser Valley highway crossing at Deas Island. For the first way to add to the crossing, all three studies came to the same answer: add a two-lane “tube.” Still makes sense!

Note: The structure of the Massey Tunnel is an “immersed tube,” but it’s seen as a pair of two-lane tubes. The third two-lane tube would be a bit to the east but still in the Highway 99 corridor and conceptually “Massey Tunnel.”  To keep it simple, let’s see the enhanced tunnel as MasseyPlus.

Let’s say it goes ahead. It’s quick and smooth to add the third tube, which replaces the older tubes in turn while they’re refurbished. Within four years from start to finish, the six-lane MasseyPlus is serving well.

It’s seismically sound and excels in bad weather. It’s great for ecology, agriculture and appearance. It limits traffic noise and greenhouse gas.

It also enables a flexible future. If need be, for instance, a fourth tube can be added later.  As the 1955 study shows, being able to add like that can even save money.

Circular tube tunnel design from the 1955 Crippen Wright Engineering preliminary study for a Fraser River highway crossing at Deas Island

That thorough study favoured a circular tube structure (see sketch, which shows steel tube clad with concrete). The rectangular structure we got is fine too, but the dug-out shore where its sections were made is now the BC Ferries upkeep cove. I’m told that shipbuilders’ drydocks can be used instead, at least with the circular design.Fortunately, circular tubes withstand external force best, with good effects for strength and cost. A current version of what’s shown might work for MasseyPlus.

In any case, the Garden City Conservation Society board supports adding two lanes for better transit. The mode can be light rail, buses or HOVs (high-occupancy vehicles). If it’s reliable, pleasant and economical to use, it will prosper.

In contrast to MasseyPlus, the slug’s-pace scenario that caters to Port Metro Vancouver would demolish the tunnel after building a megabridge above it. And Mayor Malcolm Brodie has pegged the price at $3.3 billion or more.

High bridge clearance would combine with deepened channel to let big ships go east. But the tunnel isn’t the shallowest point in the channel, which would have to be deep the whole way to distant docks. Imagine the dredging!

As megabridge users, we’d be hit with endless tolls to fund the means to port sprawl, with total waste of Massey value. And Port Metro would have more cause to buy up Agricultural Land Reserve farmland for its port land bank, as it did in Richmond with the fertile Gilmore Farm.

We’ve endured the tunnel non-action for too long. We don’t deserve zero-gain waste. We do deserve MasseyPlus.


More notes:

  • My father was a partner in Crippen Wright Engineering, which did the 1955 study, including this 1955 Crippen Wright comparative study of the bridge and tunnel options for the Fraser River highway crossing at Deas Island. The link is to part of the final volume in a set of studies that is three inches thick.
  • For further reading, I recommend “The George Massey Tunnel saga” on Voony’s Blog.
  • This article is also a Richmond Review column.

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