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Expert says Massey replacement will cause more problems than it solves

Last Updated Aug 30, 2016 at 8:00 am PST

An artist's rendering of the Massey bridge (Source: flickr @bcgovphotos)

SFU professor says trends going forward suggest we should be building alternative public transportation infrastructure

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Patullo Bridge closures have come and gone and commuters weathered that work without much of the predicted chaos, so what does that mean for the need of another big project just down the road?
“The Massey Tunnel replacement is a project that is going to create more problems than it solves for us in the region,” says Anthony Perl, a professor of Urban Studies and Political Science at Simon Fraser University.

Perl says there’s a reason drivers survived the loss of lanes during the Patullo Bridge rehabilitation further up the Fraser River. “In my experience from many different places around the world, urban vehicle traffic turns out to be much more adaptable and dynamic than many of the predictions and models suggest it will be. People make different decisions on getting around based on the supply of transportation options,” he tells NEWS 1130. “As long as there are alternative options in place, people don’t necessarily continue to keep trying to get through congested areas.”

Perl says the proposed bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel is a huge capital investment in what he calls a mode of transportation that isn’t growing in North America. “All of the trends going forward suggest that we should be building alternative public transportation infrastructure and that there’s going to be more efficient use of the existing road network.”

Perl suggests the proposed Massey Bridge — due to be completed by 2022 — is an example of what happens as Translink still tries to figure out how to solve regional transportation planning issues.

“We haven’t quite got that perfected yet and we still wind up with the provincial government dropping in these huge megaprojects which are inevitably overbuilt. We have to break that habit if we want to have a better future in our region.”

Perl believes the new multi-lane bridge will end up increasing suburban sprawl on both sides of the Fraser along Highway 99. “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. Hopefully, it’s not too late for the province to rethink this over-investment in bridge capacity.”

Subject to an environmental review, construction on the new bridge is expected to begin next year.

The George Massy Tunnel accommodates an average 80,000 vehicles per day.