Posts Tagged ‘Massey Tunnel’

The Fraser Estuary is trending well

June 14, 2017

There’s a promising trend for the Fraser Estuary, the union of mighty river and Salish Sea that begot the Richmond islands, much of Delta and more.

A citizens group and Ecojustice, along with Surrey and New Westminster, recently took the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority to court. They are aiming to prevent the barging of immense amounts of thermal coal through the estuary. While we wait for a decision, we’re spared the hazards of dirty coal, and we can read an informative report here.

Another dire threat from the port is their proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2, a new artificial island of fill in the mouth of the estuary. (Click image for larger version.)
A federal review panel for the Terminal 2 plan keeps asking tough questions—this month with a focus on marine life. I’m impressed.

The port has announced that it’s now less intent on dredging the Fraser ship channel deeper. That may be part of the port’s strategy to get Terminal 2 approved, but it’s also an opportunity to stop harm to the estuary.

(Note: If the port doesn’t have to include the environmental impact of dredging as a “cumulative effect” of projects in the estuary, it has a better chance of getting Terminal 2 approved. After that assessment by review panel, the port could consider deeper dredging again.)

We trust a new government will listen well and sift through the old one’s half-decade of Massey Replacement content to find what’s ideal for transportation, safety and the environment.

They could revive the pre-Christy plan with extra insights.

The “Expanding the Tunnel” graphic shows the essence of it, with the eco-excellent “Green Tube” providing two new lanes.

That and the four-lane “Legacy Tube” would comprise the expanded Massey Tunnel in the Highway 99 corridor.

However, it could be best to place the Green Tube upriver, further east, as a new tunnel.

In that case, it could connect with Richmond’s Nelson Road, which leads into Highway 91, with just a minimal effect on farmland.

Either way, the aim is to increase the transit capacity by two lanes. (The Green Tube may not be directly used for transit but enables it.)

At least to begin with, Rapid Buses are the likely mode, planned long ago.

The Green Tube is the urgent need. Done fast and well, it could initially divert traffic from the Legacy Tube to expedite the many overdue and near-due renovations. (Legacy lanes could close for the work, a pair at a time.)

After the external phase of the seismic retrofit, that would entail refurbishing of the Legacy Tube with a new ventilation system, installing of ceramic tile throughout, renewal of the in-tunnel transmission line, and other refinements.

Beyond the tunnel, the renewal would include the seismic retrofit of highway approaches, as well as better overpasses and interchanges. That is described in the Phase 2 Guide for the Massey Project and shown here. (Click to enlarge.)

I’ve addressed the obvious, but the new government may do better. Perhaps, for example, they’ll work with the port toward extended operating hours that help reduce the route-clogging port traffic at peak hours.

A fast-tracked BC environmental assessment would be great. The previous Massey Replacement assessment seemed to skirt the process, but I picture this one embracing it.

In short, we humans are getting in tune with the estuary. Hurray!

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Notes: This blog includes an extensive Massey Project section.
For an overview of threats to the estuary, see Let the Fraser Live.

Crisis point for the Fraser Estuary

April 10, 2017

Choosing to save the Fraser Estuary and the wild salmon means choosing to expose and repel the Big Lie Technique.

It is epitomized by the “No plans to dredge” mantra in the Massey Tunnel removal issue.

Here’s one more try to combat the Big Lie.

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Imagine yourself on a spring day five years from now. You’re relaxing in the shade with a sunny view of the Fraser Estuary. Out of the blue, you hear an unseen creative power: “Either keep this as the world’s great salmon river or dredge it deeper to lure more shipping. You must choose.”

Of course, that’s absurd. We really can make the choice, but the time to get results is now, not years from now.

The George Massey Tunnel can still be retained, not removed with unmitigated harm to habitat and the nurture and passage of wild salmon—and orcas and more. In five years, we’ll rue bad consequences if we don’t prevent them now.

This is old news, but it may seem new because it keeps getting negated. Whenever the intent to dredge the channel for larger ships comes up, the BC transport minister or a surrogate jumps in to claim “no plans to dredge.”

In truth, the Massey project’s own 2012 discussion guide says the tunnel is “an impediment to expanded trade at Fraser Surrey Docks (FSD) and points east along the Fraser River” because “many of the newer ocean-going vessels are too large to pass over the tunnel.” Citizens keep simply stating that truth, but denials fog it.

Documents from the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and Fraser Surrey Docks take further the plans to dredge deeper. With the tunnel gone, they would increase the channel depth by at least two metres to suit Panamax vessels and even some Aframax ones, bearing over 80,000 tonnes.

That doesn’t entirely conflict with “no plans to dredge,” since clear intents to dredge may not be “plans” in every sense. However, the mantra is misleading. And the tactic has been pervasive, even when the BC Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) tried to review the Massey project.

The BC EAO report reveals that First Nations groups like the Musqueam, along with many concerned citizens, alerted the EAO about the “larger plan to dredge the South Arm Fraser River to deepen the channel and accommodate larger vessels,” with “industrialization of the Fraser River.” That was promising.

Then, in response, the transport ministry professed to be “unaware of any plans to dredge the river deeper.” And the port authority “confirmed that VFPA currently has no plans to dredge the Fraser River to create a wider or deeper navigation channel.” The EAO got fooled.

In a Business in Surrey article, FSD CEO Jeff Scott, who is forthright, has described a plan to dredge a little deeper with each annual maintenance. That way, the ship channel depth would be at least 13.5 metres deep (a two-metre increase) within five years. It would be wider too.

After tunnel removal in 2022, an influx of larger freighters and tankers would take over the Fraser. But we can still choose to save the Fraser for wild salmon and ecological riches. The last chance is the BC election, May 9.

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For a slide show on the issue, view Let the Fraser Live!

For hyperlinks to the sources in this article, please see the longer related articles on this Garden City Conservation blog.

The “No plans to dredge the Fraser” plan

March 27, 2017

Dredging ship, Fraser River Pile & Dredge

Removal of the George Massey Tunnel to enable deeper dredging could begin the excruciating demise of the Fraser as the world’s greatest salmon river. In my view, truth has been another casualty.

Let’s focus on the government talking point of “no plans to dredge.” Whenever the intended channel dredging for larger ships comes out, the BC transport minister or a surrogate typically jumps in to say “no plans to dredge” or something much the same.

If you followed the Trump election campaign, you know the stratagem. There, it was “build a wall and make Mexico pay for it” and “replace Obamacare with something terrific” and “never going to lose.” Mantras got drummed in.

With the “no plans to dredge” mantra in the Massey project, there’s a twist that the project’s 2012 discussion guide (page 11) says the tunnel is “an impediment to expanded trade at Fraser Surrey Docks and points east along the Fraser River” because “many of the newer ocean-going vessels are too large to pass over the tunnel.”

Documents from the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (in a 2013 letter to the Massey project director and in the 2013 president’s report) and from Fraser Surrey Docks express proposals to dredge deeper. With the tunnel gone, they would increase the channel depth by at least two metres to suit larger vessels, some over 80,000 tonnes.

One could say that doesn’t entirely conflict with “no plans to dredge,” since intents to dredge may not be “plans” in every sense. Still, the mantra is misleading.

In 2015 the port authority agreed to Fraser Surrey Docks revising its plans for its thermal coal shipping terminal so it could load large ships (at least Panamax). Since they could only reach the terminal after tunnel removal and deeper dredging, it is obvious that both the port and FSD were planning on the dredging.

Later, the BC Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) report on the Massey project (pages 122) has revealed that the public and Musqueam Indian Band, among others, expressed concerns to the EAO about “a larger plan to dredge the South Arm Fraser River to deepen the channel and accommodate larger vessels,” with “industrialization of the Fraser River.”

But the transport ministry claimed, in response to the EAO, to be “unaware of any plans to dredge the river deeper” (EAO report, page 123). And the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (VFPA) “confirmed that VFPA currently has no plans to dredge the Fraser River to create a wider or deeper navigation channel” (EAO page 123).

Since the BC Environmental Assessment Office is toothless in this situation, it had to go along with the ministry’s plea it didn’t know anything and the port’s plea it wasn’t planning anything.

“Plan” or not, the documented proposal is to dredge deeper (and wider) in five annual stages. FSD has proposed to simply dredge a little deeper while doing the annual maintenance of the shipping channel. If the project stays on schedule, with tunnel removal in 2022, that step would enable the channel to be used at the new depth of at least 13.5 metres.

In a further twist, the BC EAO report adds, “VFPA also noted that projects proposing new dredging to accommodate vessels that are larger than what the existing channel was designed to accommodate . . . would be subject to review under VFPA’s Project and Environmental Review process” (EAO page 123).

Translation: “Dredging for larger ships will actually occur after all, and the VFPA (alias Port of Vancouver) will handle the environmental protection.” So the fox gets exclusive rights to guard the henhouse.

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Notes: See “Tunnel removal to deep-dredge the Fraser” for more documentation of the planning for deep dredging of the Fraser River ship channel. See Let the Fraser Live! for an exposé of how the situation came to this. See “Transport minister’s myth-busting mission” for an alternative perspective (different from this blog’s).

Update, September 26, 2017: On the very day of the televised leaders debate for the 2017 BC Election, Premier Christy Clark has suddenly found a reason to ask Prime Minister Trudeau to ban thermal coal exports from BC ports. It aims at the thermal coal from the U.S., and it would especially affect the Fraser Surrey Docks situation. Here’s the Clark-to-Trudeau letter.

Transmission project harms the estuary

March 18, 2017

Last fall, I addressed the Massey transmission line issue on this blog. Electric power lines, secure in the tunnel in working condition, were to be junked. New lines would be suspended over the Fraser from towers 120 metres tall.

Beyond the trees, the rendering shows a grey 75-metre tower and red 120-metre tower for electric-power transmission lines to replace the ones in the George Massey Tunnel.

The effect would be massive clutter, with no evident benefits for Richmond. So Richmond council firmly objected.

But the BC government simply priced the power-line project at $76 million and prodded BC Hydro to go full speed ahead with it. Hydro did as told, even though the consultation guide had said it could start after bridge construction began, if need be.

That same BC government likes to describe how much Richmond has been consulted on this issue and related ones, but consultation without heeding is nothing.

So why the hurry? The Sun’s Vaughn Palmer thinks it’s because “Christy Clark promised after the last election that construction would be underway before the next one.”

It’s that and more. Near-ready towers before Election Day could give voters the impression it’s too late for a new government to revisit the Massey options.

For sure, speeded-up tower work makes it harder to build another tunnel tube beside the existing one, since the tower foundations would block the new-tube route on one side.

On the bright side, it may prompt voters thinking about the Massey project to realize that it’s a tunnel removal project. The key word is “removal.” The intent is to remove what the project has called “an impediment” to bigger ships going upriver and back.

Transporting LNG, they’d put residents of Richmond and Delta at risk with substandard LNG safety. And they’d transport Wyoming thermal coal, via Fraser Surrey Docks (FSD), that US ports refuse to handle.

FSD proposals require that the deep-sea ship channel be dredged to a depth of at least 13.5 metres. That’s at least two extra metres, which is a lot. Channel widening, with still more dredging, would be needed too.

The ecological effects of deep-dredging the 34-kilometre channel each year would be devastating, especially since several other ecologically risky projects are planned or in progress. Only the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project is getting a federal review.

In contrast, the Fraser River Estuary Management Program (FREMP) harmonized the estuary’s ecology, economic development and quality of life for twenty years, and it was bolstered by federal willingness to do environmental reviews.

Then, in 2013, the Harper government handed it over to Port Metro Vancouver, an agent of industrializing—and deadening—the Fraser. That typifies the problem.

The Trudeau government promised to fix the problem. We’ll see.

For now, moving a transmission line from the tunnel to towers may seem like a local detail, but keeping it in the tunnel would have welcome ripple effects for the estuary. And every battle matters in the Fraser’s fight for life.

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This article was also published as a “Digging Deep column” in the Richmond News, March 8, 2017.

How the Massey Project comparison of options was rigged

March 13, 2017

In the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project, the supposed comparison of five scenarios (supposed options) was used to eliminate almost all views other than the anointed one, Scenario 2, “Replace Existing Tunnel with New Bridge.” That was done in several overlapping ways, and this column shows how just one of them discredits the process for anyone who can take the time to follow what happened.

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When the project provided five scenarios, they were presumably ways to proceed that were worth considering. The scenario that appeared to receive the most public support was the obvious one. (In the map illustration below, the concept includes an added “Green Tube,” so-named because it is an environmentally friendly method.)

It had been the expected way to expand the tunnel ever since 1955, when the engineering consultants recommended it in the Fraser River Highway Crossing at Deas Island report. That obvious method was to add a tunnel tube in the tunnel corridor to expand the tunnel by at least two lanes. (See page 13 in this excerpt from the 1955 Crippen Wright Engineering Ltd. report.)

The project included that long-intended step in Scenario 4, “Maintain Existing Tunnel and Build New Crossing along Highway 99 Corridor” (Phase 2 Discussion Guide, p. 2.)

The new tube would apparently comprise two transit/HOV lanes and a multi-use path, in keeping with the Garden City Conservation Society’s proposal based on practical and conservation values.

However, the project then changed the scenario when evaluating and comparing it. In the 2014 MMK report (page 3), we see this:

Retroactively, the scenario had been changed to require the same capacity—ten lanes, etc.—as the project’s preferred one, the bridge. As you can see when you look back and forth, the new wording was thoroughly inconsistent with the scenario stated in the Phase 2 Guide.

A crucial objection to the proposed bridge expressed by Metro Vancouver and many others was that lower capacity would be better, e.g., from standpoints of regional growth and the environment. However, the change that got slipped into the MMK docuement, which got applied to all the scenarios, had the effect of eliminating such ideas from consideration. In one fell swoop, much—perhaps most—of the consultation input to the project was annihilated.

Furthermore, the MMK report made almost no other use of the project’s supposed consultation. There’s a segment that evaluates the scenarios on the basis of  community and regional planning (pp. 25–27), but the bridge option somehow comes out looking good despite the strong opposition of Richmond and Metro Vancouver. (Note: The only other consultation included is with first responders, p. 25.)

This problem appeared again in the project’s application to the BC Environmental Assessment Office which based the related part on “Evaluation of Crossing Scenarios (MMK 2014).” This means that, once again, the project made the excessive size of the bridge a requirement for the other options. That practically precluded the EAO from responding to the environmental harm of the excesses.

The project made the EAO assessment a farce, a huge waste of the taxpayers’ money. This example of supposedly comparing scenarios to choose the best one shows that the project also wasted an incredible amount of good-faith input from Metro Vancouver, local and First Nations governments, and many groups and individuals.

Non-clueless views on the Vanity Bridge

February 22, 2017

Looking to catch a few Massey Issue views, I simply googled Massey bridge. I caught a News 1130 story, “Critic pushes to toll Massey Tunnel, instead of building new span.” Illuminating!

Nathan Pachal, Councillor, City of LangleyTo critic Nathan Pachal’s tolling idea, I’d add the wrinkle of a congestion-scaled toll on trucks—scaling from high tolls at hours when traffic in a direction is jammed to low or nil at light-traffic times. If the Roberts Bank port facilities get opened for trucks to load and unload 24/7, that may be the only toll that’s needed.

Nathan Pachal, who writes the South Fraser blog, is a Councillor of the City of Langley.

I in turn got hooked via News 1130’s Related Stories, taking this bait, “Expert says Massey replacement will cause more problems than it will solve.” Enlightening!

Simon Fraser University Professor Anthony Perl

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Expert Anthony Perl foresees the effect if the bridge gets built:

“It’s going to create more challenges for our region in trying to build the sustainable, compact growth area that people will actually benefit from. That’s a lot harder to fix once we’ve already gone down that path.”

That supports the approach to growth of Metro Vancouver’s planners and mayors. It also agrees with the planners and council of Richmond, which has a lot at stake.

Anthony Perl, PhD, is Professor of Urban Studies and Political Science at SFU.

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Susan Jones, Boundary Bay Conservation CommitteeUpdate, Feb. 22, 2017:
Susan Jones of the Boundary Bay Conservation Committee is a thorough researcher of the Massey issue. Have a look at her new analyis: “The over-sized, over-priced bridge does NOT have public support.”

The best indicator of public opinion is the submissions to the BC Environmental Assessment review. Almost all the 446 written submissions showed either support or opposition for the bridge plan. While 96% were opposed, only 4% supported the plan.

Metro Vancouver mayors were opposed too— 21 out of 22.

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Mike HarcourtWhen Mike Harcourt shared his views in the Vancouver Sun and Delta Optimist, his conclusion was evident from the title “Former premier says bridge is a bad idea.” He elaborated by comparing the kinds of approaches Metro Vancouver has proposed with the one being imposed. He wrote:

These ad hoc, unilateral, provincially imposed transportation projects such as the bridge proposed to replace the tunnel are a bad way to address these challenges, a bad way to govern.

Yet, in “Bridge is best option,” transport minister Todd Stone responded:

This is simply not borne out . . . by the opinions of the thousands of consultation participants that took the time to share their views over a period of more than four years.

Any smidgeon of truth to that claim? See the facts from Susan Jones.

 

Tunnel removal to deep-dredge the Fraser

February 10, 2017

Dredge ElephantMany citizens have addressed BC transport minister Todd Stone’s double-speak about the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project, but it’s still crucial to focus on the elephant in the room, the dredging aspect.

Stone recently wrote, “The province will not dredge the river as part of the project.” Of course not! First, dredging is a federal, not provincial, responsibility that is carried out by the Port of Vancouver (PoV). Second, dredging a 34 km navigation channel would obviously not be part of a tunnel-bridge project. (It would, however, be enabled by the tunnel-bridge project.)

salish-seaBeyond the doublespeak, the dredging is a pivotal factor in the threatened future of the Fraser Estuary, as well as the Fraser River and Salish Sea. And facts matter.

Dredging the navigation channel deeper than the current 11.5 metres—for safe clearance above the tunnel—has long been proposed. The proposals go back to at least 2006, in the Pacific Gateway Strategy Action Plan(See page 20, which is PDF page 32.)

Along with that, PoV has been sure since September 2012 that deeper dredging would entail removing the tunnel. (Adding depth by dredging the protective layer of sand above the rock ballast and tunnel was known to be unsafe by then. See Deep Dredge Appendix 1.)

In April 2013, a letter from the PoV CEO to the Massey Project’s executive director urged “Replacing the tunnel with a new crossing that allows larger vessels to access industrial sites along the river.” (See Deep Dredge Appendix 2.)

Jeff Scott of Fraser Surrey DocksFraser Surrey Docks (FSD) operates the main Fraser cargo terminal, and FSD CEO Jeff Scott is clear: “We’ve proposed a five-year project, which would take us to 13.5 metres in steps over that period” (Business in Surrey, June & July 2013—see Deep Dredge Appendix 3).

Robin Silvester, Vancouver Fraser Port Authority CEOThe October 2013 PoV President’s Report by CEO Robin Silvester (Deep Dredge Appendix 5)) says 13.5 m would enable the fleets for dry or liquid bulk (dilbit, LNG, US thermal coal, etc.) “to transit the river fully laden.” That would include Panamax vessels of up to about 80,000 deadweight tonnes (DWT) and some Aframax vessels, even larger.

Since the other rationales for a bridge are weak, tunnel removal is the likely reason it was chosen.

We desperately need an independent review of the costs and benefits of all aspects of the proposed tunnel removal, including triggered proposals like the deep dredging. That includes ongoing economic cost and the deadening ecological cost of battering the estuary.

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Additional appendixes with supplementary information:

Deep Dredge Appendix 4, from a research report by Douglas Massey, includes a key insight in the bottom paragraph. It refers to a meeting of Feb. 2,2012 to plan a strategy for removal of the George Massey Tunnel. The participants (BC government Port Metro Vancouver, Fraser Surrey Docks, etc.) are listed in the second paragraph. The final paragraph includes Port Metro Vancouver’s response about the channel depth needed for the larger ships they envision going past the tunnel location: “the depth should be 15.5 m over 50 years and 18.5 over a 100 year period.”

Deep Dredge Appendix 6 is from the Gateway Transportation Collaboration Forum 2015 report. The described “Fraser River Deepening Project” implicitly requires removal of the tunnel. Port Metro Vancouver would have some way to say the project to dredge the channel isn’t a plan to dredge the channel, but any reasonable person can see clear intent to dredge the channel (after tunnel removal).

Deep Dredge Appendix 7 is a letter from the Port of Vancouver (a.k.a. Port Metro Vancouver” and “Vancouver Fraser Port Authority”) to the BC Environmental Assessment Office, which had asked about Fraser River dredging related to environmental assessment of the “proposed George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project.” In the three-page PoV letter, the relevant thirteen words are on the second page, with my yellow highlighting added. PoV wrote: “The port authority currently has no plans to create a deeper navigation channel.” They can play semantic games with “currently” and “plans,” but contrasting truth is that PoV certainly had the intent to do it. The reality is that the answer was very misleading

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Update, Feb. 16, 2017: Here is the full George Massey Tunnel Replacement project application to the BC Environmental Assessment Office. That’s 4418 pages of PDF! I find it simplest to refer to the PDF page numbers. Roughly 27 times, the application claims that “the Ministry is unaware of any plans by others to dredge the river deeper.” Unless the Ministry wears a blindfold and ear plugs, that must be false, as shown in this article (including the appendixes). 

Since the application shows that roughly a dozen Indigenous groups had expressed concerns about related dredging, the invalid consultation includes all of those groups (along with many other parties). For details, search for “dredging” from around PDF page 2248 on in the application.

Update, Feb, 20, 2017: See also “Smoking gun in the case of the vanishing tunnel,” the article above this one.

Trudeau gov’t favours dirty U.S. coal, not our agriculture and eco-rich river?

October 13, 2016

Hon. Lawrence MacAulay, Canadian Minister of Agriculture“Port development trumps agriculture: federal minister MacAulay” says the headline of Country life in BC, October 2016. It adds, “Senior level of gov’t has the right to exclude BC farms from land reserve.” Breathtaking, like a sucker punch to the solar plexus.

A bit of relief begins with the date of his comment, September 12, two weeks before Steveston–Richmond East MP Joe Peschisolido hosted Hon. Lawrence MacAulay (right), along with many Richmond citizens, at Richmond Country Farms  on September 25. MacAulay is Agriculture Minister in the Trudeau government.

As far as I can tell, Joe Peschisolido is trying hard to represent his constituents. When Joe introduced me to the minister, I tried to share a little related insight (with little response), and Joe told me later that he had turned that into an opportunity to explain our Richmond/BC perspective.

So far I’ve seen no tangible result, but I’m still hoping that something is in the works, especially since the threat of deep dredging of the Fraser River ship channel is so closely tied to the still-absent federal environmental assessment of the “Port Metro Bridge” project.

I’ll share the main part of the Country Life article below and then an outstanding letter to the minister and others from Susan Jones of the Boundary Bay Conservation Committee and then a link to an also-excellent Stephen Rees blog post.

clife_lmacaulay

Here’s the letter from Susan Jones to the minister, prime minster et al.:

Federal Liberal Government misled by Port of Vancouver misinformation

It is alarming that the new Liberal Government of Canada is being completely misled by the Port of Vancouver.  

It is difficult to believe the statements by the federal Minister of Agriculture, Lawrence MacAulay in reference to B.C. agricultural land protected by the provincial Agricultural Land Reserve: “Lower Mainland farmland could be sacrificed to ensure agri-food exports can move to market quickly and efficiently, federal agriculture minister Lawrence MacAulay told Country Life in BC” (“Port Development trumps B.C. agriculture: federal minister MacAulay, Country Life in B.C., October 2016).”

Canada wants to increase export-ready agri-food exports to China and other Asian countries.  It is ironic that the Port of Vancouver claims it needs to industrialize Canada’s best farmland in order to export agricultural products.

There is no evidence to support the claim that we need to industrialize farmland.  This is a ploy by the Port of Vancouver to expand its real estate holdings which will enrich the crown corporation and associates.  It has nothing to do with sensible port business.

Exporting agricultural products has been, and continues to be, important to the Canadian economy.  It can continue without using the precious 5% B.C. farmland.  

The largest increase in agricultural exports is wheat and other grains, which are being accommodated by a new massive grain terminal in North Vancouver.

In terms of processed foods, which were stressed in the article, Vancouver exported 20% more tonnage in 2010 than in 2015.

Fraser Surrey Docks is a wonderful terminal with a large stretch of industrial land which is ideal for the export of specialty crops and processed foods.  The current plans for funneling dirty US thermal coal through this great site are uneconomical and a waste of our precious port lands.             

The Prime Minister and federal Ministers of Agriculture, Transport, Natural Resources, Environment, Fisheries, and Trade don’t seem to be aware they are being duped by the Port of Vancouver.  Isn’t it time to stop listening to paid lobbyists and old guard civil servants and advisors? 

Isn’t it time to listen to public concerns about protecting the ecosystems of the Fraser River delta which interactively support the world’s best salmon river, Canada’s rich farmland, and Canada’s Most Important Bird Area for shorebirds, waterfowl and birds of prey?

For further insight, see Stephen Rees’s blog post, “Port development trumps agriculture.”

Is the Christy Clark Bridge the best way?

October 11, 2016

Christy Clark’s “vanity bridge” adventure is hurtling the wrong way. Can anyone save the day?

Superman? Batman? Richmond?

Christy Clark Bridge

Richmond can! Council’s Harold Steves, Malcolm Brodie, Carol Day and Linda McPhail have enlisted Metro Vancouver and other allies. With public support, they’re striving to get through to our premier or, if necessary, the next one.

As well, they’re seeking a federal environmental assessment. It’s crucial and urgent.

But a change requires an alternative. Luckily, a prior BC Liberal government developed a better plan than Christy’s.

To begin, the BC Liberal plan assumes the seismic upgrade of the existing Massey Tunnel will be completed. (A decade ago, the upgrade stalled after the internal phase, leaving tunnel users at undue risk until the external phase gets done.)

The external seismic upgrade will stabilize the ground around the four-lane legacy tube—the existing tunnel—and its approaches. It should benefit from advances in methods in the lost years, as well as insights from recent seismic analysis for bridge purposes.

Beyond that, the plan envisions an added two-lane tunnel tube, better interchanges and overpasses, and an extensive transit strategy.

The transit aspect features a high-capacity Rapid Bus route on Highway 99 between White Rock and Bridgeport, with a dedicated lane each way for “clean energy buses” and emergency vehicles.

Shoulder bus lanes have gradually appeared along the highway. The present need is for many more buses, along with related transit action such as a big increase in Canada Line capacity. That would reduce car use, freeing road space for other transport.

The new tunnel tube will be placed in a new trench, a little east of the legacy tube, though still seen as part of the Massey Tunnel.

The new tube will have to be installed in time to replace the legacy tube when it undergoes major renovations, closing a pair of lanes at a time. After that, there’ll be six good lanes.

By now, it’s apparent that Christy Clark’s bridge adventure would cost more than stated, but even the stated $3.5 billion could fund the BC Liberal plan very well with a couple of billion to spare. (No need for tolls!)

As well, preempting the cost overrun of the Christy plan could enable seismic retrofit of the B.C. schools that still need funding for it. That might save many families from tragedy.

Also vital: While the Christy plan would assist deep dredging of the Fraser ship channel, the BC Liberal plan deters it. That averts severe harm to the river’s ecology, including already-stressed salmon runs, and to the river delta’s agriculture, including Richmond’s.

It’s time to move on from the “vanity bridge,” a towering symbol made of folly.

The alternative, the dusted-off Liberal plan, is feasible, and it will enable efficient cross-river trips. If they’re pleasant, reliable and safe for all kinds of users, that will be success.

“Massey bridge” screams for independent review

September 20, 2016

For me, George Massey Tunnel replacement problems such as defiled estuary, misused billions and traffic constipation multiply and merge like a nightmare interchange.

We can thank Richmond staff and council—and Metro Vancouver too—for addressing the mega-problem. We can thank the Massey Project and MLA John Yap for illustrating it.

Model of Steveston Interchange if a bridge replaces the tunnel between Richmond and Delta. Photo courtesy of Richmond Councillor Carol Day.

Above, a photo of a Massey Project 3-D model looks south where Steveston Highway meets Highway 99 in 2022, a few billion dollars from now.

Years ago, ahead of its time, the province came up with a much simpler Steveston Interchange redesign than that. I liked it and featured it in an April 2013 “Digging Deep” column. It would have quickly paid off in traffic safety and commuter time saved.

john-yapThat brings us to the Yap precept in a recent Richmond News column: “To do less than replace the tunnel would shamefully and irresponsibly risk the safety of daily commuters.”

Mr. Yap unwittingly implies that Premier Christy Clark is shameful and irresponsible.

How’s that? As late as November 2012, Mr. Yap applauded the premier’s announcement of “the start of work to twin or increase the capacity of the George Massey Tunnel.” (That’s from a John Yap “Constituency Report,” a Shaw TV service to let MLAs showcase themselves.) His comments conveyed that Ms. Clark was not set on removing the tunnel.

Strangely, he didn’t call her irresponsible for that. Later, he stayed silent when the Massey Project’s “Exploring the Options” phase offered four options that are “shameful” by his suspect standards. (All four require seismic upgrades, which he calls “not possible without the risk of damaging the tunnel.”)

Three years ago, the premier announced her choice. To no one’s surprise, it was the fifth option, a big bridge. A few months ago, she began listing safety above congestion as the top reason for the choice, with lots of hype and not much substance.

Looking back, I keep wondering why Mr. Yap didn’t act years earlier to spare us from “irresponsible” thoughts about keeping the tunnel. He was already an MLA when a 2007 report supposedly indicated “serious concerns the tunnel could shift during the required in-stream excavation and stone columns installation” to enhance the tunnel.

Why “supposedly”? When I checked the 2007 report, it said “low risk of accidental damage” (low, not serious) and offered ways to manage it. I mentioned that weeks ago in a column that debunked the safety-scare tactics. As I said then, “we need an independent, wide-reaching and fast-acting analysis of the safety aspect of the Massey options.”

And the project continues to need a federal environmental assessment by a review panel. It’s vital for conserving our vibrant Fraser estuary. I mention it now because we’re being distracted from seeking it.

To end on the bright side, let’s be glad our Richmond and Metro leaders are acting with real vision.

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Update, Sept. 21, 2016: Mr. Yap’s guest column has already drawn a scathing response from a Richmond citizen, Amy Brooks. InBC Liberals’ bridge trumps our children” in today’s Richmond News, she writes, in part:

My question is, wouldn’t seismically upgrading schools in the Lower Mainland also provide construction jobs, as well as making where children spend a quarter of their day actually safe?

The Port Metro Bridge is a dubious gift

January 27, 2016

Richmond Council has resolved that it “prefers a new or improved tunnel rather than a new bridge.” That would give priority to Richmond needs in the misnamed “George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project.” (Most of its scenarios wouldn’t replace the tunnel.)

Garden City Conservation agrees with council. After thorough research, we’ve proposed action that features an added two-lane tunnel tube on the upstream side within the tunnel corridor.

At first the new tube would take traffic from the existing tunnel to enable efficient renovation. Later, the tube would enable better transit, possibly as light rail. The most likely use for the tube would be two new northbound lanes so that the six-lane tunnel could have a bus/HOV lane in each direction.

At least the project seems ready to finally improve the Highway 99 interchanges. But it ignores the remaining part of an earthquake-readiness project that’s been unfinished since 2007. At that time, the first of two planned stages—strengthening joints between tunnel segments—was completed.

The second stage, at a similar cost, was planned to increase stability, limiting the risk of earthquake liquefaction. However, the project leader tells me the process is itself too risky. That’s odd, since it was included in the project’s three tunnel/bridge “scenarios” that retained the existing tunnel.

The reality is one way or the other. One way, the sand and silt supporting the tunnel in the riverbed can in fact be stabilized so that it’s safer in an earthquake than pretty much any structure in the area.

The other way, the public was consulted on five options when three of them had been ruled out, leaving only the bridge and an unfeasible replacement-tunnel scenario. In that case, the bridge had been chosen from the start.

To clear up the confusion, the project should fund independent expert studies about the level of earthquake safety after all steps to improve it.

Dredge ElephantThis brings us to an elephant in the room. Bridge promoters swear that Jumbo isn’t there, but he smells a lot like Port Metro. It has trumpeted for years about a deeper channel for larger ships after the tunnel is removed.

“As a federal body here at Port Metro Vancouver, we have supremacy,” said its president recently. The supreme leader will soon be dredging if the bridge is built. It could be aptly called the Port Metro Bridge.

The deeper ship channel would lead to heavier waves, more erosion and a bigger flood threat. The salt wedge, ocean water, would flow further up the channel. Irrigation water that Richmond farms obtain from the river (via pumping stations and the ditch system) would become too salty.

On the bright side, if we’re stuck with the bridge, we’ll get a lovely westbound off-ramp to Steveston Highway, zipping us from the bridge to the No. 5 Road stoplight car-jam. For only $3.5 billion.

Or some of those billions could go to better transit.

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This article also appears as a “Digging Deep” column in the Richmond News of January 27, 2016.