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Critic pushes to toll Massey Tunnel, instead of building new span

FILE - Massey Tunnel traffic backed up on May 6, 2015 (NEWS 1130 file photo)

Construction on the new span is expected to begin this year

Traffic volumes could hit levels last seen during the 1980s, shows provincial documents

LANGLEY (NEWS 1130) – It is a source of back-ups along Highway 99 every day and the George Massey Tunnel is due to be replaced with a new $3.5 billion crossing in the coming years. But one critic says a new bridge isn’t needed because traffic will eventually drop.

Langley City Councillor and transportation blogger Nathan Pachal calls the whole project a “head-scratcher.”

He has been going over project documents posted on the Environmental Assessment Office’s website and a recent one looked at how traffic volumes will change when the new crossing is tolled and the impact of increasing transit. The documents suggest commuters will make a beeline for the Alex Fraser Bridge, which isn’t tolled.

Pachal thinks building a new span may not be worth it. “It’ll actually end up with less traffic on that with the toll than at any level seen since the 1980s.”

He suggests if you simply tolled the existing tunnel, the replacement project’s $3.5 billion tab could be better spent on improving transit in the region. “Obviously, there are things that need to be replaced. I would say, again, of all the crossings that are in need of replacement, it would be the Pattullo Bridge. That one has structural issues with it, chunks of it are falling into the [Fraser] River.”

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson says she’s in favour of improving transit in her region, but she’s not willing to give up on building a new bridge.

She says it’s simply human nature that by only tolling the Massey Tunnel instead of replacing it will just divert traffic another way but that isn’t the answer. Jackson believes all bridges in Metro Vancouver will eventually need to be upgraded and that’s why a fair tolling system across Metro Vancouver is the best approach going forward.

“The tolls on the Golden Ears and the Port Mann Bridges are way too high and people avert those two areas. If they were a minimal amount, as you know I’ve said a $1 a bridge, for the whole Lower Mainland. All the bridges are going to have to be updated or replaced at some point in time. We should all be contributing to a pot of money that is going to be able to allow that to happen.”

Construction on the 10-lane Massey Bridge is set to get underway this year at a cost of $3.5 billion.