Posts Tagged ‘George Massey Tunnel’
I am not an engineer or a geologist. But I do know that soil liquefaction is a huge problem for structures in earthquake prone areas, like the one we live in. When the shaking starts what seemed to be solid ground is actually waterlogged sands and similar material – the result of millennia of silt being deposited by the Fraser River as it slows on its way to the sea – starts to move. The damage to buildings in San Francisco in its famous quake was due to similar soil conditions. They still cause issues there: a high rise called Millennium has piles that do not reach bedrock and it is both sinking and leaning.
When the Massey crossing was first contemplated it was these soil conditions that caused the engineers to reject the idea of a bridge and chose a tunnel instead. Those conditions have not changed since. The Geological Survey of Canada in 1995 reported that bedrock is around 1,970 to 2,300 feet below where the new bridge is proposed. More recently B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure had two holes bored to 1,099 feet “without tagging bedrock” – not really a surprise since there was another 1,000 feet to go.
We know that Greater Vancouver is going to experience a major earthquake since there has not been a major shift in the tectonic plates since European settlement started, but there was apparently a “big one” which was recorded as a tsunami that hit Japan. These events are hard to predict with any accuracy but many seismologists think it is “overdue”. No-one has ever built a cable stayed bridge of this size in these kind of conditions. Indeed it is very hard to think of why anyone would propose taking such a risk – anyone who has the imagination to envisage what happens to two massive towers unsecured to bedrock but linked by cables and a bridge deck when the soil beneath them liquefies and shakes.
“I think people tend to focus on the Big One. If you’re looking at the statistics there’s a one in 10 chance that it will happen within the next 50 years. I think of those as fairly high odds. If we had a lottery with that kind of probability you’d probably buy a ticket,” she said.
The “she” quoted is Earthquake Canada seismologist Alison Bird
Ask yourself, as Premier Christy Clark wants you to buy a bridge, do you feel lucky?
Transportation Minister Todd Stone did a presentation recently to the Richmond Chamber of Commerce. The government then put out the following Fact Sheet
I must admit that when I read it I became almost incoherent with rage. I think Myth #3 is the one that really did it for me. But then I have written more often about induced traffic more than any other topic I think. Seems that way to me. But fortunately I have found a fresh voice on these issues.
I am not going to take credit for the following letter to the editor which has been submitted by N. Herman of Richmond. He has generously allowed me to publish it here in case the mainstream media decide to ignore it.
No one disagrees that the Massey Tunnel is a traffic bottleneck. In many respects however, choosing the right solution can be a “life or death” proposition.
To replace the Massey Tunnel with a bridge has been a questionable proposition recently, and in fact (not a “myth”), it contradicts the same provincial governments own previous, public decision to add another tunnel. And make no mistake, the bridge is huge, in fact (not a “myth”), it will be the biggest bridge of its kind in North America. Think you are going to enjoy a quiet summer BBQ in the backyard ? How about a quiet night’s sleep? Aside from diesel particulate and other pollution blown down on your property, the din of bridge traffic noise, elevated above the river, may be heard miles into Richmond and Delta, and it will be relentless, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Stability of the bridge? It will be built in an area that is proven to have the highest risk of liquefaction during an earthquake. Think the “Fast Ferries” were a disaster? This liquefaction risk alone could turn $3.5 billion into worthless rubble in minutes. Has the provincial government completed its soil analysis ? Of course not, but its already spending your hard earned taxpayer money installing pilings.
We should also be clear that the real purpose of the bridge is to allow massive ocean going freighters to ship carbon based fuels on the Fraser River, which they cannot get access to now because of the tunnel. And contrary to Minister Stone, it is not a “myth” that the Port of Metro Vancouver repeatedly petitioned the provincial government to raise the bridge for this purpose. And what of those fuels? First we have LNG. Not a “myth” as claimed by Minister Stone, did you know that placing an LNG plant so close to a populated area is actually illegal in the United States due to EPA safety rules? If any LNG is spilled on the Fraser, the explosion radius can be measured in miles. If the USA has made it illegal, and it is against international industry regulations, why is the provincial government putting your life and the lives of your loved ones at risk?
And what about coal? Well as it turns out, it’s not even Canadian coal. The coal will be shipped from Wyoming in the United States. Again ask yourself “why” when Seattle and Portland both have good ports. Again, the answer is simple. Coal dust is carcinogenic: coal trans-shipment is banned in both those states. It’s not a “myth” that Premier Clark and Transportation Minister Stone seem to think its “a-ok” to put your life at risk doing something that is so dangerous, that it’s illegal in the USA. It currently appears that the Port further intents to pave over 2,500 acres of the Gilmore Farm right beside Steveston Highway in Richmond. So much for healthy local food.
[moderator: the location and size of the Gilmore Farm is the subject of some questions on another forum where Harold Steves clarifies: “The Gilmore Farm in East Richmond was bought by the port for port expansion. It is about 218 acres not 2,500. The Gilmore Estates is 324 acres south of Steveston Highway and has nothing to do with the port. Port Metro Vancouver wants 2,500 acres for port expansion and the Gilmore Farm is part of it.” ]
Then we have an expanded “jet fuel” tanker farm near the #6 Road entertainment complex, serviced by barges. So let’s ask ourselves what pervasive reason exists to use barges instead of just pumping the fuel from the Cherry Point refinery in Washington State? Again, it is a task of looking behind the real “myth” perpetrated by the provincial government. The moment fuel enters a pipe at the refinery, it must be paid for. When shipped by barges, it is not paid for until off-loaded. This allows the Airport consortium to therefore play the commodities market on fuel, which can amount to millions of dollars of profit a year. With no on-site personnel, and no dedicated fire station, how long do you think it will take for a disaster such as a massive firestorm to occur while they profit from playing the markets? Again, call your Liberal MLA and ask them why they think that’s ”a-ok” for the government to put our lives at risk.
The fact, not a “myth” is that Premier Clark, Transportation Minister Stone and the Port of Metro Vancouver have all flown to Ottawa to advocate for a project that according to a recent FOI request has zero documentation for a business case. Perhaps it was “triple deleted” or “verbal only”? Whatever happened to the provincial government’s pledge of honest disclosure and transparency? If a bridge is such a good idea, where is the report? Where is the independent environmental review”, and why should that even be an issue to them, if the idea is so good? The Mayors Council is demanding that the provincial government “come clean”, and stop this cynical illusion of public consultation that ridicules the publics intelligence with publicity stunts like the ” Debunking the Myths ” presentation that Minister Todd Stone tried to sell last week. Two pre- vetted “questions” were asked at the end of his presentation, and then he disappears faster than a magician.
People are “fed-up” of the government playing fast and loose with the truth. As the Transit Tax referendum results demonstrated, people are “done” with wasted tax dollars spent on pet projects to feed a political ego. The public is also “done” with false statements made regarding a bridge proposal with purported “massive public support” when investigative reporter Vaughn Palmer discovers that of 1,000 “consultations” only 140 were in support. This is as troubling as the Richmond Chamber of Commerce claiming “a majority of Richmond businesses support the bridge option” when they do not represent all businesses in Richmond, and another investigation reveals that in fact (not “myth”) over 80% of their members never even voted on the survey. Does every Mayor in the province realize that their own city’s budget for infrastructure has been slashed by 1/3 by the provincial government in order to build this one bridge? If not, they should be writing the Premier.
It is time to revisit the previous transit plan that Minister Kevin Falcon had developed that built a solid business case for an additional tunnel, and admit that a bridge has never been the best solution to relieve Massey tunnel traffic congestion. An expanded tunnel would economically, and with minimal environmental impact, allow for better traffic movement and an expanded rapid transit corridor.
The Province needs to listen and learn from the Metro Vancouver governments who are strongly united in their opposition to a bridge for good reason, and learn from them how best to create a transit corridor that will move us forward in a modern and effective way. The only real “myth” right now is the provincial government has been transparent and open. Enough of the Todd Stone flim-flam, and waste of our hard earned tax dollars.
Enough with unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats destroying the world heritage Fraser River with dangerous, life threatening over-industrialization that is illegal in other parts of North America. its time for citizens to take control of this foolishness before living in Richmond or Delta becomes a “life and death” situation.
Postscript : New Westminster Councillor Patrick Johnstone has now published a comprehensive debunking of the Ten Myths “Fact Sheet” on his blog – which in itself is well worth following
My email inbox has been filling up today with a contretemps on LNG on the Fraser playing out in the letters page of the Richmond News. Since I have learned that it is sometimes a bit tricky getting to see on their web page what has been printed in the paper, I thought it might be useful to set out the correspondence here.
The day started with an email from Viviana Zanocco who is the Community and Aboriginal Relations Manager in External Relations department of FortisBC to undisclosed recipients.
As part of our commitment to sharing project-related information with you in a timely manner, attached is a letter in which we respond to misinformation presented in a recent letter to the editor published in the Richmond News; we’re sharing it with you prior to its distribution to the media.
In the letter, a local resident said the George Massey tunnel replacement project is being driven by the needs of LNG proponents and could impact fish and fish habitat. This is something we’ve heard repeated in the community as the discussion about the bridge replacement unfolds and requires clarification.
The fact is that LNG carriers that could one day ply the waters of the Fraser River would be able to do so even if the tunnel remains in operation. WesPac Midstream LLP is proposing to build an LNG marine terminal next to our Tilbury LNG facility, which we’ve safely operated on the shores of the Fraser River since 1971. The jetty would be built to accommodate vessels in the same size range or smaller than the existing vessels currently operating on the Fraser River. WesPac has confirmed publicly that the concept under review wouldn’t be impacted regardless of whether or not the tunnel remains in operation.
We also believe that LNG will play an important role for the marine transportation industry in reducing emissions and potential environmental impacts associated with the use of heavy oil and diesel.
FortisBC’s Richmond News_ Letter to the Editor is a pdf file you can read from that link
I am indebted to Susan Jones of Fraser Voices for the following rebuttal
In the letter to the Richmond News it is stated:
Whether the George Massey Tunnel is removed, replaced or expanded – or how the proposed bridge project is constructed – will have no impact on the WesPac proposal.
[This is] simply not true
Port Metro Vancouver (PMV) discussed LNG ships and the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project with the Gateway group.
The following are some notes I have on this topic. Those FOI emails acquired by Voters Taking Action Against Climate Change and newspaper articles indicate that the LNG operations were included in the discussions between PMV and the federal and provincial governments.
BC Government representatives began a series of meeting with Port Metro Vancouver in early 2012 as the port made it clear that:
“The tunnel is also a marine bottleneck. It was not designed for the size of ships used in modern day trade, which must access the Fraser River in Richmond and Surrey. As a result, the tunnel is becoming a significant obstacle to international trade on the Fraser.”
(Robin Silvester, CE0, Port Metro Vancouver: Vancouver Sun, April 29, 2012)
Discussions were underway about clearances for the new potential crossing and Port Metro Vancouver made it clear to the government that plans should include air drafts to accommodate large ships:
“Liquid bulk tankers with larger air draft requirements (e.g. LNG) should be considered,”
(Port Development Strategies Manager, Jennifer Natland, Nov. 29, 2012 to Project Planners)
On September 20, 2013, the B.C. Government announced plans to build a bridge instead of replacing the tunnel. Port Metro Vancouver was included in the following meetings for planning and design. Emails show that port staff urged the province to design a taller bridge, even though that would mean higher costs, a more challenging design and a steeper grade for Highway 99 traffic on both approaches.
On July 16, 2014, Port Metro Vancouver CEO, Robin Silvester queried:
“What is the air draft of the largest length LNG vessel that we could imagine in the river?”
Port marine operations director Chris Wellstood responded:
“…we feel that the 61-metre MAX air draft would allow for the larger part of the world’s LNG fleet” – tankers up to 320 metres long- to pass under new bridge and head up the Fraser.””
In another exchange of emails:
“On a June 5th a follow up meeting between PMV and Gateway was held to discuss PMV’s height requirement and as a result of that meeting Gateway was going to provide a revised drawing with a 130 m one-way channel for clearances…
…The main issue with additional height for the bridge is that the shore landings need to be higher and longer which increases the overall cost of the project…
…Please let me know if you see a problem with the original height requirements requested by PMV in 2012…”
(Chris Wellstood, Director Marine Operations & Security, Habour Master to Cliff Stewart, to Cliff Stewart, Vice President, Infrastructure Delivery, Port Metro Vancouver, July 15, 2014)
A June 2014 briefing note by port officials following a meeting with provincial counterparts cautions:
“…there are multiple challenges with high costs to achieve PMV’s requested height” of 65 metres”.
These negotiations did not include the public or the local governments. The public have not been provided with credible information for other options such as upgrading the existing tunnel, twinning the tunnel, a smaller bridge or retaining the status quo with better transit and restrictions on truck hours.
In spite of repeated requests for the business case for this Project, the provincial government has failed to produce this information. This should have been presented to the public and local governments for comment in the early planning stages.
Also considerations of safety with LNG vessels on the river has not been addressed.
This LNG production and export are putting the public at great risk as they contravene international LNG Terminal Siting Standards as outlined by the Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators (SIGTTO). The Standards claim LNG ports must be located where they do not conflict with other waterway uses as all other vessels must be considered as ignition sources. The narrow, highly populated lower Fraser River, and narrow shipping lanes through the Gulf Island do not meet the international safety standards of wide exclusion zones.
If that is not enough you might also like to read Elizabeth May’s trenchant comments on BC’s approach to LNG tanker safety
You will understand that I approach this with a background in trying to integrate transportation and regional planning. It is what I have been doing for the last 50 years, one way and another. Experience has shown us that simply building freeways as a way of dealing with traffic congestion is ineffective. As the capacity of the system is increased, the traffic gets worse, simply due to the almost immediate impact of induced demand, but in the longer term by the changes brought about in land use. Essentially expanding road capacity encourages more car trips, most of which are made in single occupant vehicles. This is about the most inefficient use of transportation infrastructure we could possibly devise. A lane of freeway can move 2,000 vehicles per hour – or 2,500 people more or less. Car occupancy in this region has been generally higher than the rest of North America – but not by very much. The same width of lane used for transit increases the potential capacity to 20,000 people per hour.
The Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) was designed to tackle this issue, by controls on land use and changing the priorities for transportation provision. We said we would build a compact urban region, with complete communities that would protect green space and increase transportation choice. The province of BC was part of that agreement but in the last ten years has decided unilaterally to behave as though it did not exist. The freeways have been widened, land owned by the provincial government has been released for development and resources for better transit have been almost but not entirely restricted to one or two major projects.
Replacing the Massey Tunnel and widening the freeway from the Oak Street Bridge to the US border was never part of the RGS. It spoke about increasing the utilisation of the existing highway by promoting the use of higher occupancy vehicles. It is no coincidence that the man most responsible for getting car sharing going here was a cranberry farmer, Jack Bell. Arguments about how to define an HOV were key to the establishment of Translink: the then Mayor of Delta insisted on 2+ for Highway 17/99 or she wasn’t going to sign on.
I think it is fair to say that most people were surprised when Christy Clark announced her plan for a massive new bridge. Most people were unaware that this was in the works – and had been for some time. But that had little to do with the conventional land use transportation framework or the regional growth strategy. It was driven by the Port of Vancouver. In fact the process has been remarkably similar to the one than led to the widening of Highway #1 and the new Port Mann Bridge. The Gateway Council was front and center – but as we now know the trucks are not using the new tolled crossing so much as the grossly overloaded and inadequate Patullo Bridge – pouring more traffic onto city streets in New Westminster. Everything that the RGS was supposed to avoid.
The process by which we have got to the present has been carefully documented by Douglas Massey: the son of the man for whom the tunnel was named. He has given me permission to place his work here as a pdf file. The Vision to Build the George Massey Tunnel & the Road to its Removal Jan 19 2016. [Please note that on February 2, 2016 I replaced the file with a revised version that contains the complete document] Here are a couple of key paragraphs to show you why you need to read the whole thing.
The intention of this document is to show the intent from day one that any crossing of the Lower Fraser River, from the Gulf of Georgia to New Westminster, shall not and will not be granted approval unless it meets the approval of the present and future needs of Harbour Boards and industry, never mind the needs of the people, their environment, or the sustainability of the Lower Fraser River for fish and wildfowl.
Port Metro Vancouver, Vice President Duncan Wilson, was quoted in a letter to the editor of Richmond Review on July of 2015, “The depth of the river is also a limitation. While the removal of the tunnel may create greater depth at that point in the river, the amount of dredging required on either side of the former tunnel would be extensive and potentially cost prohibitive.”
The facts are: that in order for the proposed 14.5m depth to be achieved and maintained, the George Massey Tunnel would have to be removed along with GVWD 30” water main (costs yet to be determined) along with a one- time dredging cost of $200 million, and an estimated annual dredging costs of $30 million. There would be other costs, before any dredging to deepen the Lower Fraser River could take place:(1) The cost of a full hydrological study that would have to be undertaken, to determine what effects this would have on the sustainability of its ecosystem to support fish and wildlife. (2) The effects it would have on the existing dikes and the costs to rebuild them if necessary. (3) Determining if the deepening would result in the salinity advancing too far up river and affecting the ability of the farmers to use the water for irrigation.
All during these discussions there has been little to no discussion about the need for a new river crossing to alleviate the congestion for people and their vehicles. The, emphasis of all previous and present discussions has been on the moving of bulk cargo. Any new crossing of the Lower Fraser River should be to improve the movement of people and not just to make it possible for the complete industrialization and dredging of the Lower Fraser River, at the expense of the river’s ecosystem, that is so vital for its sustainability and ability to preserve its fish and wetlands that are so significant to the survival of the wildfowl and mankind. Prepared by: Douglas George Massey
It seems to me that we are repeating the same pattern we saw with the Gateway. The arguments to justify the expansion of the freeways – and the building of the South Fraser Perimeter Road – were always about trucks. But the real agenda is to encourage the typical pattern of suburban sprawl that the RGS was supposed to deter. It is clear that the BC Liberals care very little about sustainability: transit, walkability, greenhouse gas reduction get verbal acknowledgement – mostly PR fluff – but the actual decision making is always based on business as usual. And not even growth based on what we can do, and are doing well. But rather the things that we have always done – which turn out to be both of little economic value and also come with huge environmental costs.
We can see why they wanted to improve the Sea to Sky – it opened up land for development in places where the regional growth plan had been careful to restrict reliance on long distance commuting into Metro Vancouver. The Port Mann Bridge is tolled, and is carrying less traffic than the old bridge as a result, but none of the rest of widened highway #1 is tolled. The Golden Ears opens up Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge in a way that the ferry never could have coped with. The SFPR and now a widened Highway 99 clearly will promote more sprawl in Delta. It is already apparent and will increasingly threaten the ALR. But as we have seen with Site C, the BC Liberals care not at all about the ability to grow our own food, now or in the future. Their treatment of wolves and bears shows how little ecology is understood.
Port expansion and the reliance on LNG are dangerous nonsense. Climate change is the most important challenge we face, but it is also an opportunity to develop new ways of being. The old model of ripping out resources and disposing of waste carelessly cannot continue. But we already have far more of our GDP coming from a new economy that could potentially be supported by renewable resources. We have huge potential for wind, wave, geothermal and solar energy. We do not need Site C – nor is there a viable market now for LNG. We do need to reduce the use of fossil fuel powered single occupant vehicles. We can grow much more of our own food. California is not going to be able to feed itself let alone us. We must protect the ALR and we do need better ways to get around than driving ourselves for every purpose. We know how to do that. Why does Christy Clark not understand any of this and why is she stuck in the 1950’s? And how can we make sure she never gets elected to anything again?
It seems the staff at Metro Vancouver share my concerns
The biggest implications, the report noted, was concern over how the proposed bridge would affect the region’s growth management strategy, which aims to get more people out of their cars and living and working in denser town centres around transit stations so as to preserve agricultural and industrial land.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This image comes from the South Delta Leader – and their credit simply reads “via Twitter”
The Province of BC is going through its public consultation process. As usual, I get the distinct impression that they have already decided on that they think is the correct technical solution to the problem they pose. Nothing much has changed at the Ministry of Transportation which is still operating in “predict and provide” mode. They continue to follow the pattern set by Robert Moses.
My attention was drawn to this by my Green Party colleague Michael Wolfe (who tweets as @bogberry) “See for yourself “Who Uses the Tunnel?” 1% of traffic is transit vehicles, moving about 26% of people” referring to this graphic
Which adds underneath “HOV and transit currently carry up to 46% of people through the tunnel”
ADDENDUM Please make sure you read the comment by Voony – with a link to his blog – to see why these MoT transit numbers are simply WRONG
But the whole tenor of the materials (the link above has the entire pdf file) is based on the idea that congestion is getting worse so we must build more space for car traffic. Not that that has ever cured congestion anywhere.
Actually the tunnel now sees a bit less traffic than it used to –
From the 2008 Regional Screenline Survey (measuring traffic volumes in the Lower Mainland):
The total number of vehicles per day in 2008 was 390,972, which reflects a minor decrease of 2.6% from 401,227 vehicles in 2004; the greatest decreases were at the Deas Tunnel (-7.5%) and the Pattullo Bridge (-5.8%) …>
I would like to provide a link to that but it came from Gord Price’s blog – there is none there and a search of the Translink document library gave me lots of other stuff but not that quote.
But “Canadian Veggie” came to the rescue in the comments and provides this useful graph
The MoT actually understates this “Over the past 10 years, average annual daily traffic volumes have seen minimal growth. This is attributed in large part to the fact that the tunnel is already at capacity for a good portion of the day, as well as to improved transit service”
Actually declining traffic is being observed all over the place – Gord Price has turned it into one of the memes he writes about regularly. Sightline has this on two different bridges crossing the Willamette River in Salem, OR. “The data show that traffic across the river has essentially flatlined for the last decade; there’s simply no evidence of growth. If anything, the numbers show a very slight decline, given that traffic reached a ten-year low in 2011. ”
From which you can see that the AM peak is slightly down, but most of the reduction occurs in the evening. 5,000 vehicles per hour is “close to capacity” in the interpeak when two lanes operate in each direction. At peaks, the contraflow lane adds to one direction’s flow at the expense of the other. So if you are south of the tunnel in the mid-afternoon, trying to get north means a longish wait. Or as they say “a single traffic lane is no longer sufficient to manage off-peak direction volumes. Long lineups are causing congestion…”
So why does it need replacement? “the tunnel currently has 10 – 15 years of serviceable life before major operating systems will need to be replaced.” So that is not the actual tunnel itself, it refers to the traffic signals, the ventilation system and the drainage pumps. The sort of things that get replaced on a regular basis.
“At 22 metres below sea level, the tunnel is … too shallow to accommodate the navigational access needs of increasing ship sizes” Two thoughts about that. First is that sea level rise is going to add 6 feet or more to that before the end of the century – that is if we are better at predicting sea level rise than we have been over predicting the loss of arctic ice. Provided of course that you can persuade Richmond and Delta to raise their dykes enough to keep the water out of the tunnel itself. (see next post) But secondly, the expansion of Roberts Bank is going to provide a lot more berthing capacity for very large ships, without having to worry about squeezing underneath the Alex Fraser Bridge. Given that huge amounts of money are being spent on port expansion there – and the South Fraser Perimeter Road too – why does the Port think it needs yet more large ship capacity – and what happens to the existing deep water berths on the Burrard Inlet (finest natural harbour in the world and all that)? I do NOT think that the predictive capabilities of the Port Authority should actually drive the transportation and land use plans of the region, given their current dismal performance.
I did look through the feedback forms, and there is some ability to state that you actually value agricultural land over concrete. But population expansion – and (by implication) more sprawl – seems to be a given. But I would like more ability to state that I do not think the tunnel does need to be replaced, especially when I think that it is likely to be yet another massive cable stayed bridge, with immense ramps on either side that will have to be fitted alongside the existing freeway. There is no illustration of what that would look like. But it either fits behind all the temples along No 5 Road (where the land has not generally been cultivated even though it is ALR) or – more likely – along Sidaway and over the golf course – with a nice big interchange at Blundell to gratify the City of Richmond’s ambitions. Quite how the connections at Steveston Highway might work, my imagination fails.
As part of the context there is also this gem
“Provincial Transit Plan: Consideration will be given to increasing transit share in Metro Vancouver from 11 to 17 per cent by 2020”
Not an actual commitment, of course. And not a very significant target either. I recall that we were talking about a 17 per cent target for 2010 back in 2004 – because it did not seem like too much of stretch back then.
My feedback would be that the tunnel can be made to work more effectively at people moving. And if we really are going to allow more people south of the Fraser then we should get serious about where they will be living and working. Mixed land use might cut the need to travel. “Building complete communities” was what we once called that – not more dormitory suburbs. We could also look at building a transit system with more people moving capacity for the longer term – perhaps electric trains serving the corridor all the way to Seattle, for instance. In the meantime, we simply extend the bus lanes to the south tunnel portal and get them out of the last few hundreds of metres of congestion. And crack down really hard on HOV lane intrusions.
We might also think about what the region is going to need as water shortages and rising temperatures in the California desert mean that it will not be the place which we can no longer rely on for our vegetables and fruit. That maybe instead of expanding ports and pretending that importing miners from China is a “jobs plan”, that we adopt a real economic strategy of import replacement and increasing local resilience.
Actually I think that is my take home message. Next spring we get to chose a new provincial government. It looks like that could be one that takes a new direction. I have a sinking feeling that the NDP will be just as wedded to conventional economic growth as the BC Liberals – and have nothing really different to offer. But perhaps a few Green MLAs can help them see a better way.
POSTSCRIPT – the next thing I read was this BIV profile of Moe Sihota that quotes Glen Clark, which says something about how the NDP and the Liberals are actually the same kind of people