Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Posts Tagged ‘Massey Tunnel

Debunking MoTI again

with 2 comments

Massey-Bridge-renderingOn April 1, the provincial government put out a Fact Sheet claiming that a cable stayed bridge can be built on the silt and mud of the current tunnel site. I have expressed my doubts before, but it is now claimed that new engineering techniques will allow a bridge to be built now that were not available at the time a tunnel was chosen. I am not an engineer, so I am willing to defer to those with expertise in that field. What I am qualified to say is that a bridge is not necessary to solve the current traffic congestion, and that adding transit capacity in this corridor is the only way to ensure that the present problem of delays can be resolved. Simply moving them elsewhere solves nothing, and encouraging more trips by cars is not doing us any favours either. Removing the tunnel might suit the ambitions of the Port of Vancouver but there is no acknowledgement by the Province that this includes increasing the depth of the ship channel. And, so far as I can tell, the disastrous impact that would have on the ecology of the estuary has not even been adequately assessed, let alone the idea that it could somehow be mitigated

The rest of this post is by Tom Morrison – and I will let it speak for itself

Re: Massey Tunnel Replacement Bridge Fact Sheet

I read with interest the Massey Tunnel replacement bridge fact sheet, originating with MoTI and published in The Delta Optimist. It suffers from a certain lack of precision which this letter will attempt to remedy.

The logs of the two boreholes drilled to 335 metres from surface for the Massey Tunnel replacement bridge show only sand and silt, with decomposed organic material as far as 280 metres from surface, ranging from 20% to 50% water content. While the boreholes did encounter layers of stiff, dense material, core recovery ranged erratically with depth from 100% down to as little as 0%, the missing material being so soft that it was not recovered in the coring tube. The question that I posed some time ago: “Given the foundation conditions, can a bridge be built at reasonable cost, if at all?” remains unanswered, beyond the obvious fact that you can build (almost) anything, provided you spend enough (taxpayer) money doing so.

Before the Massey Tunnel was built, Crippen Wright Engineering wrote the following report:

Crippen Wright Engineering Ltd. Comparative Report on Fraser River Bridge and Tunnel Crossings at Deas Island. December 1955

Page 5: “Surface and subsurface investigations show that the site is well suited to the construction of a tunnel.”

Page 6: “Subsurface investigations disclose soil with relatively low load bearing characteristics, and there is no bed rock at practicable depths; the foundations for the main piers will require an extensive pile driving program.”

Page 8: “Bridge piers and anchors will require very expensive foundations since there is no bed rock or other good bearing material at any practicable depth.”

The report did not say that a bridge could not be built, just that it would be very expensive to do so. The foundation conditions were one reason, among many, why a tunnel was chosen instead of a bridge.

The fact sheet points to other bridges built nearby:

The Alex Fraser bridge.

Bazett, D.J., McCammon, N.R. Foundations of the Annacis cable-stayed bridge. Canadian Geotechnical Journal, Volume 23, No. 4, 1986, reads as follows:

Page 461: “On the south side, the stratigraphic sequence consists of glacial and interglacial sediments at least l00 m thick, which have been overridden by at least one of the major glaciers. They are hard or very dense and form good foundation bearing materials.”

“In sharp contrast, the north bank subsurface deposits consist of approximately 65 m of postglacial sediments resting unconformally on late glacial and older glacial marine sediments.”

Figure 3 shows the north tower as built on piles bottoming in layered material described as:

“Glaciomarine and marine sediments. Stiff to hard. Grey clayey silt interbedded with stony equivalents up to 4 m thick and layers of gravelly sand.”


“Subaqueous glaciofluvial sediments. Very stiff to hard, dense grey silt, sandy silt, clayey silt, and silty sand grading into medium to coarse sand with thin layers of gravel at depth.”

This contrasts with the 335+ metres of sand and silt encountered at the Massey Tunnel replacement bridge site.

The first Port Mann bridge.

The first Port Mann bridge was a 4-lane structure, opened in 1964.

See Golder, H. Q., Willeumier, G. C. Design of the Main Foundations of the Port Mann Bridge. Engineering Institute of Canada, 1964.

Page 1: “On the south side of the river the soil conditions were worse than on the north side and consisted of a layer of soft peat to a depth of 15 ft. overlying soft organic silts and clay silts down to about 40 ft., below this again was a compact peat underlain by clay to a depth of from 45 to50 ft. Layers of sand of varying density, with occasional layers of silt extended down to a depth of about 110 ft. and below this was gravel and sand to 120 ft. depth. From a depth of 120 ft. to 190 ft. the soil consisted of soft to firm sensitive clays and silts with occasional sand partings. Below this was compact granular material, some of which was till or till-like and some of which was probably waterlaid sands and silts which had been loaded by ice in the past.

“Whatever the actual geological history of this material, for the purposes of this paper it is referred to as “the till” or “the till-like material.” Artesian water pressure existed in some of the lower gravel layers. The foundation problem for the bridge stopped when the till-like material was reached.

“On the north side of the river the conditions were simpler consisting of a thick sand layer overlain by some compressible material and overlying a clay layer of some 60 ft. thick. Below this was the till-like material.”

Till, also known as glacial till or boulder clay, is defined (McGraw Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction, 2003.) as:

“An unstratified glacial deposit which consists of pockets of clay, gravel, sand, silt, and boulders; has not been subject to the sorting action of water; usually has good load-sustaining properties.”

This contrasts with the 1,100 ft. of sand and silt encountered at the Massey Tunnel replacement bridge site, from which till is notably absent.

The new Port Mann bridge.

The new, 10-lane Port Mann bridge opened in 2012.

A web note by International Bridge Technologies, Inc. has this to say:

“Foundations for the new Port Mann Bridge are generally 1.8-m (5.9-ft) steel piles or drilled shafts, supported on a firm ground till layer under the loose sand deposits at a depth below the river.”

The Pitt River bridge.

The 6-lane Pitt River bridge was opened in 2009.

International Bridge Technologies, Inc. The Pitt River Bridge. 2011, reports:

Page 5: “The geotechnical conditions at the site were not favorable. As expected in and around the river, deep layers of soft soil were present. The firm till layer existed some 30m below the mudline. While it could be shown that skin friction had the ability to carry the vertical loads of the bridge, the Owner stipulated that the piles be embedded into the till.”

This contrasts with the 335+ metres of sand and silt encountered at the Massey Tunnel replacement bridge site, from which till is notably absent.


Sorenson, J. New Pitt River bridge pier pilings push envelope. Journal of Commerce, August 15, 2007.

“The construction of the pilings supporting the piers for the new Pitt River bridge will push the envelope for British Columbia bridge construction, says project manager Ross Gilmour of Peter Kiewet Sons Ltd.

“Pilings are being driven to a depth of 100 metres to support the piers for the new bridge. By comparison, the depth of piers driven for the existing bridge was 60 metres.

“The construction of the pilings supporting the piers for the new Pitt River bridge will be pushing the envelope from what is normally seen in B.C. bridge construction, says Peter Kiewet Sons Ltd. project manager Ross Gilmour. ‘For piles of this size and the depth to which they are being driven, for all intensive purposes, we are pushing the envelope of what has been done. It is not the biggest pipe or the deepest in the world but it is on the edge of the envelope,’ he says.”

“Gilmour says pilings for the new bridge are being driven to a depth of 100 metres to support the piers for the new bridge. By comparison, the depth of piers driven for the existing bridge was 60 metres. (The new Golden Ears Bridge connecting Langley to Maple Ridge has piers driven to a 90 metre depth across the larger Fraser River).

“ ‘I wasn’t here then,’ he says, when the existing Pitt River bridge was constructed, but, he guesses that technology had not advanced to drive piles deeper during the 1970s. (Over the years, there has been some noted sinking of the existing bridge structure.) Gilmour says that the area in which the Pitt River bridge sits is mainly clays and silts, which vary in depths throughout the Fraser Valley. “What it means is that there is nothing solid to get a foundation on until we get to that (100 metre) depth,” he says. Exploratory drilling has been done to ensure the foundation material exists at that level and is suitable.”

No such foundation material is evident in the 335-metre boreholes drilled on the site of the George Massey Tunnel replacement bridge.

The Golden Ears bridge.

The 6-lane Golden Ears bridge was opened in 2009.

See Yang, D., Naesgaard, E., Byrne, P. M. Soil-Structure Interaction Considerations In Seismic Design For Deep Bridge Foundations. 6th International Conference on Case Histories in Geotechnical Engineering, Arlington, VA, August, 2008.

Page 2:  “The subsoil conditions at the main river crossing consist of loose to medium dense sands, up to 35m thick on the south bank of the Fraser River and typically 20m thick within the river channel, resting upon normally consolidated to lightly over-consolidated clays and silts extending to the bottom of the deepest test holes drilled up to 120m below the ground surface.”

No such foundation material is evident in the 335-metre boreholes drilled on the site of the George Massey Tunnel replacement bridge.

The fact sheet refers to the 6-lane Sutong bridge in China, opened in 2008.

See Bittner, R. B., Safaqah, O., Zhang, X., Jensen, O. J. Design and Construction of the Sutong Bridge Foundations. DFI Journal, Volume 1, No. 1, November, 2007.

Page 4: “The soils at the pylon site consist mainly of firm to stiff CL clay extending to elevation -45m followed by layers of medium to very dense fine to coarse sands and silty sands with occasional loam layers. Bedrock is located at approximately 240 m below riverbed.”

This contrasts with the 335+ metres of sand and silt encountered at the Massey Tunnel replacement bridge site.

The fact sheet refers to the 4-lane Rion Antirion bridge in Greece, opened in 2004.

See Biesiadecki, G. L., Dobry, R., Leventis, G. E., Peck, R. B. Rion – Antirion Bridge Foundations: a Blend of Design and Construction Innovation. Fifth International Conference on Case Histories in Geotechnical Engineering, New York, April, 2004.

Page 4: Figure 5. Generalized Soil Profile, shows borings going to 160 metres below sea level intersecting 30-80% clay layers, the balance being sand and silt. This material may be more favourable to foundation construction than the 335+ metres of sand and silt encountered at the Massey tunnel replacement bridge.

The fact sheet refers to the Jamuna River bridge, Bangladesh – 4 lanes plus railroad, opened 1998.

See Barr, J. M., Farooq, A., Guest, S. Foundations of the Jamuna Bridge: design and construction. ETH, Zurich, 1999.

Page 250: “The site lies in the Bengal geosyncline which is continually subsiding, leading to the deposition of sediments brought down from the upper reaches. At Sirajganj the depth to basement rock is as much as 6km.”


“Soil investigations undertaken between 1986 and 1988 during Phases I and II of the Feasibility Studies approximately 1 km from the final alignment showed recent alluvial silty sands, loose at the surface becoming medium dense with gravelly layers below a depth of about 50m extending to about 100m where hard silty clay overlies a dense mica silt.”

This contrasts with the 335+ metres of sand and silt encountered at the Massey Tunnel replacement bridge site.

The fact sheet cites: “Numerous major bridges over the Mississippi River in the United States.”

Taking one at random, let us look at the I-70 bridge at St. Louis, MO.

Geotechnical Report, I-70 Mississippi River Bridge, Volume I – Engineering Report, St. Louis, Missouri – East St. Louis, Illinois. Missouri Dept. of Transportation, Job No. J6i0984, Missouri Dept. of  Transportation Bridge No. A6500.

Page 6. “While the bedrock is exposed in the Illinois bluffs several miles away, none outcrops in the project area. The bedrock surface ranges from 10 to 40 feet below the surface on the Missouri upper bank to 70 feet at the west bank, then slopes downward eastward along the project to a depth of 130 feet near Illinois Route 3.”

This bridge site is underlain by shallow bedrock.

The 6-lane Biloxi Bay replacement bridge was built in the more challenging conditions of the Mississippi delta in 2007.

See Thompson, W. R., Held, L., Saye, S. Test Pile Program to Determine Axial Capacity and Pile Setup for the Biloxi Bay Bridge. DFI Journal, Vol. 3 No. 1, May 2009

Page 14: “In general, the soils at the site consist of sands and clays of Pleistocene or early Recent age. The surface deposits are typically early Recent sands and soft clays. Beneath the sands are

Pleistocene deposits of very stiff to stiff clays and medium dense to dense sands.”

Borings went to 160 feet from surface (Figure 1), encountering stronger material than that underlying the George Massey Tunnel replacement bridge site.

The fact sheet states: “Thousands of hours of professional geotechnical and bridge structural engineering have been dedicated to ensuring that the new George Massey replacement bridge and its supports are appropriately designed for the conditions at the crossing site and for a major seismic event.” The Ministry will doubtless have no objection to sharing the reports that this work must have generated.

The bridges cited by the Ministry fact sheet are 4- and 6-lane structures, all founded – ultimately – on a firm bearing layer capable of supporting the weight of the bridge. If a bearing layer, capable of supporting the heavier 10-lane Massey Tunnel replacement bridge, exists within the 335-metre depth from surface exposed by the two boreholes, it is not obvious. The MoTI is planning a heavier bridge than those cited on apparently weaker foundation material.

Assuming that the planned bridge can, in fact, be built, the question remains: “Can it be built for any reasonable cost?” Time will tell.


That is not the only Delta resident not taken in by Todd Stone and his flunkies. To reward you for reading this far, here is some more debunking

Dear Editor,

Transportation Minister Todd Stone was either sadly misinformed or
lying to the press at the impromptu groundbreaking ceremony held in the
former Delta firehall when he claimed that the proposed bridge replacing Massey
Tunnel is not being built to accommodate Port Metro Vancouver (PMV) since
“large ships aren’t able to turn around in the Fraser River anyway”(1). He
conveniently forgets that the Vancouver Airport Fuel Delivery Project (2) on
the north side of the Fraser River, approved by PMV’s environmental assessment
office, provides a terminal and a 80 million liter tank farm for unloading
Panamax supertankers carrying hazardous jet fuel. That terminal location allows
the jet fuel supertankers to turn around with the help of tugs before they
are escorted out to the Salish Sea. At the recently approved Fraser River Surrey Docks project, Panamax-size coal ships will be loaded and turned around (3). Similarly the LNG terminal location on south side of the Fraser for the LNG supertankers also provides capability for turnarounds (4).   PMV initially requested that the air draft of the proposed bridge be raised to 65 m from 57 m to allow taller cruise ships, LNG supertankers and freighters to go past each other under the bridge (5, 6). PMV has since then recommended 59.6 m for a tall single ship passage only.

The removal of Massey Tunnel and replacing it with a high ten lane
bridge and subsequently dredging (7) the river deeper is all in aid of PMV
providing unfettered access for larger ships to go further up river and
thus further industrialize the Fraser River (5) and destroy its habitat and
estuary for salmon fisheries and wildlife (9).

Yours safely,

Jim Ronback,
System Safety Engineer (retired)

Tsawwassen,. BC

P.S. Replacing a four lane tunnel with a 10 lane bridge may not
necessarily reduce one’s travel time if it creates a Braess’s paradox (8)
in the overall transportation network. We need confirmation that this
paradox will not occur.

1) “Stone also categorically rejected the notion the tunnel was being
replaced to accommodate Port Metro Vancouver, which isn’t contributing
to the project, saying large ships aren’t able to turn around in the
Fraser River anyway.”

2) Vancouver Airport Fuel Delivery Project

3) “Port Metro Vancouver has approved a revised shipping plan that
would see deep-sea vessels loaded at the Fraser Surrey Docks.
… The new plan involves the same amount of coal—four million
tons a year. But instead of 640 barges, some 80 Panamax-size
ships will be loaded each year. However, a longer ship loader
will be required, and extensive dredging would be necessary so
that there is room in the river to turn the ships around. The ships
are 225 metres in length.”
Revised coal shipping plan approved- Patrick Brown
Island Tides, Volume 28 Number 1 January 14, 2016

4) LNG Fraser River export project approved by National Energy Board
The liquefied natural gas would be exported from a facility in Delta, B.C.

5) “The port (PMV) has long been an advocate for the Massey Tunnel replacement
because of port-related traffic congestion in the tunnel and the constraints
on deepwater vessel traffic. For years, the port has cited the pre-built
sectional tunnel’s shallow draft as a major impediment to expanding
commercial river traffic.”
Port Metro wants Massey bridge higher to allow biggest LNG tankers, May 22, 2015

6) Update on George Massey Tunnel Replacement
– City of Richmond, July 10, 2015

Trevor Langevin, September 2016

8) Braess’s paradox is a proposed explanation for a seeming improvement to a
road network being able to impede traffic through it.

9) The Questionable Science of Vancouver’s Port Expansion
A flawed environmental impact assessment may have consequences for the western sandpiper.
by Amorina Kingdon , Published November 28, 2016


Written by Stephen Rees

April 8, 2017 at 2:03 pm

Vaughn Palmer: ‘Forces of no’ dig in for tunnel replacement ceremony

with 2 comments

DSCN9158There was an opinion piece by Vaughn Palmer in the Vancouver Sun yesterday which did not give anything like a balanced coverage. The protest is against spending far too much money on a “solution” that we know will not work. Not against doing something about people currently experiencing long delays to get through the tunnel at some times of day. Groups like Fraser Voices have been concerned that the bridge was decided on in the Premier’s office – and all the effort since then has been to justify a quixotic choice. All the other options – including sticking to the BC Liberals’ previous plan – are simply ignored. And then they lie about the port’s intentions to deepen the ship channel.

So I wrote a Letter to The Editor.  I am putting this out here now because I think it is very unlikely to be published.

Vaughn Palmer’s characterization of the protest at the tunnel ceremony is not accurate. There are real alternatives to the $3.5bn vanity project that have not been adequately examined.

The real problem is congestion at peak periods. Traffic through the tunnel has actually been in steady decline for the last ten years. However, the Port of Vancouver operates the container terminal on bankers’ hours. Monday to Friday 8am to 4pm. No other port operates like that. It ensures that truck traffic uses the tunnel at peak periods, and makes the congestion worse. That is deliberate. It helps the port make the case for tunnel removal. There are plenty of records available that demonstrate the Port’s long term strategy for deepening the dredging of the channel – and the tunnel prevents that. In the short term, simply banning trucks at peak periods – and opening the container collection and delivery facilities  24/7 – will relieve the present problem.

In the longer term, congestion can never be solved by widening roads. Never has done, never will do. All that does is move the line-up to somewhere else. The only way to reduce car traffic is to increase transit service. One bus can carry many more people in a given length of road than cars can. The province has already invested in bus lanes both sides of the tunnel but service needs to be increased. And when that isn’t enough, add another tube on the river bed carrying light rail.

As for the claim that the “full freight will be covered by tolls”, it has not worked for the Port Mann or the Golden Ears. Why would the Massey replacement be any different?

Written by Stephen Rees

April 6, 2017 at 12:27 pm

Fact Checking Todd Stone

with one comment

Susan Jones is a very diligent researcher, and a great source of information in matters pertaining to the Massey Tunnel Replacement Project. She circulated the following bunch of clippings to the Fraser Voices group. I thought that my readers would appreciate the following and I encourage them to spread the word.

Letter in Richmond News quotes B.C. Transportation Minister, Todd Stone, October 25, 2016

“And let me be clear – there are no plans to dredge the Fraser River.”

Richmond News: Letter: Tunnel twin more expensive, less safe says Stone

There are definitely plans to dredge 34 kilometres of the Fraser and the BC Government has been involved in the planning.  It is the $90 million Fraser River Channel Deepening Project to dredge the navigation channels from 11.5 metres to 12.8 metres.

One source of information is found on the Corporation of Delta website.

March 31, 2015          Report on:  Gateway Transportation Collaboration Forum

A letter from the Gateway Transportation Collaboration Forum to BC Government and specifically to Todd Stone:  (scrolled pages 4 and 5/49)

“Thank you for your letter dated February 2, 2015, providing support to the Gateway Transportation Collaboration Forum (GTCF) and direction for us to work with your recommended staff.

We are pleased to provide an update on the progress of the GTCF. The Steering Committee and Working Groups have been actively engaging with municipalities, First Nations and stakeholders to identify

potential gateway-related infrastructure projects of national significance in Greater Vancouver.

The British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) is participating on the forum to understand various stakeholders’ interests and support coordinated gateway planning and infrastructure development…”

Scrolled Page 17/49  – note BC Government logo at top of page

Fraser River Channel Deepening Project

Capital Dredge of the Fraser River to 12.8 m to the 34 km mark

  • A material enhancement project to increase the depth of the Fraser navigation channel, from km 0 to 34, from its current draft of 11.5 meters (m) tidal to to 12.8 (m) tidal assist.
  • The Project will allow vessels currently calling the Fraser River to be loaded to their maximum capacity and to accommodate  increased vessel draft for new growth opportunities and market demands.  Increases the capacity of the two navigational channels.”

Potential Applicant: Fraser Surrey Docks LP* (* Private sector projects pending confirmation of public-sector partnership)

Estimated Capital Cost: $90 million

Development Status: Concept Design

Potential Beneficiaries: Port Metro Vancouver, Private Sector, Canada, Province, Metro Vancouver, municipalities

Written by Stephen Rees

October 30, 2016 at 4:21 pm

Groups Call on Feds to Fund Transit, not Massey Bridge

with 3 comments


Press Release from The Wilderness Committee and Fraser Voices

FV LOGO colour

Open letter urges government to review project and consider alternatives

RICHMOND, BC – Community and national organizations are calling on the federal government to launch an environmental review of the proposed Massey Tunnel Replacement Project and to withhold federal infrastructure funding from the project.

Resident group Fraser Voices, the Wilderness Committee, Council of Canadians and five other organizations representing over 160,000 members and supporters have sent an open letter urging the federal government to use the money it has promised for infrastructure to fund transit projects in Metro Vancouver instead of the new 10-lane highway bridge.

“This federal money gives Canadians an opportunity to correct the mistakes of the past and build a greener future,” said De Whalen, one of the founding members of Fraser Voices. “But the Massey Bridge is imposing the same old car culture from the 1950s.”

The federal government has said it will fund environmental and social infrastructure with its $10 billion per year stimulus money. Extra vehicles resulting from the Massey Bridge and will add about seven million tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere over 50 years.

“It is irresponsible to be building new highways during a climate crisis, especially when they do nothing to ease congestion,” said Peter McCartney, Climate Campaigner for the Wilderness Committee. “Even the mayor of Houston, Texas – with its 26-lane freeway – agrees it’s time to stop building highways and build transit instead.”

Community groups are hoping the federal budget next week will include funding for the Broadway Skytrain project and Surrey LRT instead. Along Highway 99, rapid bus service could ease congestion for a fraction of the $3.5 billion price tag of the proposed Massey Bridge.

application/pdf iconOpen letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mar. 17, 2016


Written by Stephen Rees

March 17, 2016 at 10:16 am

You still have five days left to comment

with 2 comments

Massey Bridge

The last post to this blog was about the proposed replacement of the Massey Tunnel by a massive bridge. A small group of people have been getting together to try and co-ordinate activity opposing the province’s proposal. This is what we have so far:

Urgent Deadline for Public Comments on George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project

Please Act Now                     DEADLINE FEBRUARY 15, 2016

The B.C. Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) is requesting public comments on the valued components in the environmental assessment for the Massey Tunnel Replacement Project.


Click on the RealMasseyTunnelHearings link below.  There is a form for you to submit your comments.  You can write your comments there or prepare ahead and copy and paste into the space provided.  The site provides some information for you consider and there is more below.


Visit Real Massey Tunnel Hearings to get a quick overview of some of the concerns people have identified with this project. You can send your comments to the EAO directly through the website, and they will be automatically forwarded to our municipal, provincial and federal elected representatives.  This is our best chance for building awareness of public concerns about this proposal.

Some Points:


  • The impacts of this Project are far-reaching and should include a Review Panel federal environmental assessment.
  • More information is needed and there should be a future opportunity for input on Scoping and Valued Components before the Application is allowed to proceed,
  • The Project is too large and too expensive
  • Traffic Congestion will increase at the Oak Street and Knight Street Bridges
  • The Project information fails to recognize the national and international significance of the Fraser River Estuary for salmon, sturgeon, eulachons, endangered whales and migratory birds of the Pacific Flyway.
  • A 45% percent increase in truck traffic in this region is unacceptable and credible alternatives are available.
  • The Project will have a negative impact on regional air quality.


The following are more specific points for your information.


Definition of Valued Component


“For the purpose of environmental assessment in BC, Valued Components (VCs) are components of the natural and human environment that are considered by the proponent, public, Aboriginal groups, scientists and other technical specialists, and government agencies involved in the assessment process to have scientific, ecological, economic, social, cultural, archaeological, historical, or other importance.”


Page 4: EAO: Guideline for the Selection of Valued Components and Assessment of Potential Effects



Valued Components Commentary


  • The Open Houses and public information document, ‘Project Description and Key Areas of Study’ have failed to provide sufficient information for the public to make informed comments on the Scope and Valued Components of the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project (GMTR).


  • The B.C. Environmental Assessment process states scoping should be prepared by the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office prior to request for public input on the scope and valued components:


“Issues scoping should begin early in project planning, before initial regulatory submissions, such as the Project Description and draft AIR, are made, as the information gained during issues scoping will inform not only the selection of VCs but also the determination of the scope of the assessment…”

(Note: AIR – Application Information Requirements)


Page 8: EAO: Guideline for the Selection of Valued Components and Assessment of Potential Effects

  • There needs to be a future opportunity for public comment on a credible document which clearly outlines the Scope and Valued Components as identified by the Proponent; the BC Ministry of Transportation; the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office; the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency; Transport Canada; the Canadian Ministry of Environment and Climate Change; and Health Canada; and Public Safety Canada.


  • While the document claims engagement has taken place with Provincial and Federal regulatory agencies, no information is provided as to Scope and Valued Components.  It states that will come later.  The public and municipalities cannot be expected to comment on Scope and Valued Components without any substantive information from the government agencies.  As Scoping and identification of Valued Components are essential to the environmental assessment, the public must be afforded an opportunity to provide comment once these have been credibly identified with supporting documentation.


  • The information is incomplete as it does not include the requirement of environmental assessment pursuant to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Due to the importance of the Fraser River Estuary and the cumulative impacts of this Project and several other past, current, and planned projects, a Review Panel Environmental Assessment should be required., Some reasons for the requirement of a federal assessment:

Ø  Decommissioning of the Massey Tunnel

Ø  Length of the new bridge

Ø  Requirements under the Fisheries Act, Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Navigation Protection Act, Species at Risk Act, Migratory Bird, Environment Protection Act etc.

Ø  Ecological and social upstream and downstream effects – scour and infill processes

Ø  Endangered and threatened streams critical to viable fish habitats and migratory birds

Ø  Watercourses that support fish and fish habitat

Ø  Effects on the salt wedge

Ø  Impacts on interactive, interdependent riparian habitats between the shoreline and the Fraser River critical to viable fish habitats and species at risk

Ø  Impacts to water quality of the Fraser River and adjacent communities

Ø  Permits and approvals that are required for the Project – need to identify and list

Ø  Effects on navigation in the Fraser River and the shipping route to the open Pacific

Ø  First Nations interests, information,  land use, Fraser River use and claims

Ø  National, provincial and international designations recognizing international ecological significance of the Fraser River Estuary

Ø  Cumulative effects of past, current and planned Projects on the South Arm of the Fraser

Ø  Hydro technical impacts

Ø  Health of fisheries and potential impacts on commercial fishing

Ø  Need for a risk analysis to address uncertain residual effect predictions


  • National and international significance of the Fraser River Estuary for fish species, migratory and resident birds and endangered whales needs to be included.  The lower Fraser Estuary is a declared RAMSAR site which means it is an internationally- recognized Wetlands.  The area is also a designated site in the Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network as well as the site of the top three Most Important Bird Areas in Canada.


  • The information is incomplete as it does not identify federal, provincial, regional and municipal land plans, codes, regulations, standards, and initiatives such as Official Community Plans, Regional Growth and Sustainability Strategies, Climate Action Plans, archaeological information and numerous other initiatives.  The document states it is reviewing some of these documents but no specifics are provided.


  • The information is incomplete as it does not identify effects on cross boundary agreements and initiatives which may be affected by the Project.


  • The Project Rationale should include information on alternative options – continue upgrading and retaining the Massey Tunnel; twinning the tunnel; or building a much smaller bridge.


  • The section on traffic congestion claims truck traffic will double by 2045.  This reason should not be supported in terms of air pollution and safety.  Alternatives to increased truck movements (such as inland transloading at Ashcroft) should be presented to the public.


  • The section on traffic congestion should include the problem of moving congestion from the Massey Tunnel to the Oak Street and Knight Street Bridges.


  • Project Benefits are just descriptive.  They need to be substantiated with credible studies.   They ignore many public valued components such as clean air, protection of farmland, and use of tax dollars.


  • Impacts of Bridge Height should be included – safety, ice, interference with migratory birds of the Pacific Flyway, Sandhill Cranes, night hunters and the largest number of wintering raptors in Canada.


  • Impacts of preloading, highway construction, and decommissioning of the tunnel are descriptive and fail to identify valued components.


  • Specific information on the installation of pilings and potential impacts should be included – depth, procedures, safety, noise pollution and impacts on fish and wildlife habitat.


  • A safety risk assessment for the Massey Tunnel during construction needs to be included.  Continuous drilling and vibrations have the potential to impact the tunnel making it potentially unsafe.


  • Project costs of $3.5 billion should be itemized with information of how the Project will be funded.  A Cost/Benefit Analysis and a Feasibility Study should have been provided at the earliest stages of this assessment.  Use of tax dollars is a valued component that needs to be transparent.


  • While the document claims Aboriginal Group Engagement, no information is provided for the opportunity to comment on valued components.


  • Changes in Fraser River hydraulics, water quality and sediment are identified.  These valued components should include permits required by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the need for a federal environmental assessment.


  • Fish and fish habitat are not correctly identified.  This section should include studies done over the years by the Fraser River Estuary Management Program that include habitat classifications.  Areas of the bridge project include important riparian habitats.  These are coded red which are shoreline areas having highly productive habitat.  Credible evidence needs to be provided for blanket statements of “low aquatic habitat values.”


  • Species at Risk such as the White Sturgeon and Coho Salmon should be identified and included.  This should trigger a federal environmental assessment.


  • Underwater noise may affect marine mammals.  This section should include recent studies that find noise effects whales more than previously understood.


  • There will be negative Impacts on wildlife from noise and light pollution during construction and as a result of the Project.  Night hunters will be permanently impacted.  This is a valued component.


  • Vegetation in the area of the Project is varied.  Ditches, old streams and water courses support rare or at-risk species.  These valued components should have been identified in this section.


  • Habitat for endangered Pacific Water Shrew and Barn Owl will be impacted.  This project will add to the ongoing loss of critical habitats in the Fraser River Estuary.


  • The following statement on air quality is an opinion:

“The Project is expected to result in an improvement in air quality, especially in the vicinity of the Tunnel, as a result of improved traffic flow, since vehicles driving at highway speeds consume less fuel and generate lower emissions. In addition, the new bridge is elevated above ground level, allowing airflow over the top and beneath the bridge, which contributes to improved dispersion of pollutants.”


Congestion will move to the Richmond bridges causing pollution in other areas.  Doubling truck traffic by 2045 is not going to improve air quality as stated in this section.

  • Air quality is a valued component that needs more information than is provided here to the public.  With all the studies and work over the past few years, the public deserves specific, credible, referenced information.


  • Impacted farmland and environmentally sensitive areas should be specifically identified.  Anticipated no net loss of farmland and expected benefits are meaningless without substantive information.


  • Impacts on human health should include stress with ongoing construction: congestion, air pollution, light pollution, noise pollution.


  • An environmental risk assessment is a valued component that should be included.


  • The information provided to the public fails to meet the principles of transparency, participation, credibility, and purpose that have been established by the International Association for Impact Assessment.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 10, 2016 at 1:03 pm

Posted in Transportation

Tagged with

That new bridge

with 34 comments

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.

Artic unloads at Bridgeport

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.

Trains like this one serve the region beyond the Ile de France, and provide fast direct services for longer distances. The much faster TGV serves the intercity market.

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.

New Jersey Transit provides statewide services to the suburbs and exurbs of the New York region

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.

One picture worth a thousand words

with 6 comments

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 11.21.52 AM

This image comes from the South Delta Leader – and their credit simply reads “via Twitter”

Written by Stephen Rees

May 9, 2013 at 11:27 am