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Stop fighting Massey bridge, Delta mayor urges Metro Vancouver

Transportation ministry rendering of what a new Fraser River bridge might look like to replace the existing Massey Tunnel between Delta and Richmond.  - Province of B.C.
Transportation ministry rendering of what a new Fraser River bridge might look like to replace the existing Massey Tunnel between Delta and Richmond.
— image credit: Province of B.C.

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson is calling a TransLink study "garbage" after it cast doubt on the merits of building a new bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel.

The report estimates peak travel times from South Surrey near the U.S. border to the Oak Street Bridge in Vancouver would be 31 minutes in 2045 with a new eight-lane toll bridge – compared to 35 minutes now – or 38 minutes if the new bridge is not tolled.

It also forecast a travel time of 32 minutes if the existing four-lane tunnel is tolled and no new bridge is built at all.

"It's absolutely ridiculous," Jackson said. "Anybody that travels that road, anybody that lives there and understands our communities south of the river would know that's bumph."

She urged Metro Vancouver directors at a March 12 transportation committee meeting to accept that the province is going to build the new bridge to replace the congested tunnel and not to "waste our time" trying to defeat the project.

"It's so frustrating for me, I just vibrate," Jackson said after the meeting, adding TransLink refused to study Highway 99 congestion for years until she gave up and lobbied the province directly for a new bridge.

Premier Christy Clark announced the new bridge last fall but has not yet indicated how large it will be or if it will be tolled. Preliminary studies are underway and a project definition report from the province is expected this spring.

Jackson said there's no question in her mind the new bridge will be tolled, the only issue is how much the toll will be and whether other currently free bridges will also be tolled at the same rate.

She agreed tolling has a major effect on traffic flows and said a good regional analysis is needed on the potential effect of tolling all crossings, not just a study that looks only at one corridor.

"Some day the Second Narrows is going to have to be replaced and the Arthur Laing and all the others," Jackson said.

"If all those lanes were tolled at a very low rate – say 50 cents or a dollar – people could understand that and accept that and they would take the bridges and they would go the shortest distance between their two points."

If only some bridges are tolled, she said, people will go out of their way to save money.

If the Massey crossing and the Pattullo Bridge replacement are tolled, leaving only the Alex Fraser free, she added, it will be unusably jammed, while "you can play a golf game" on the Golden Ears.

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts also called the study flawed, saying it fails to look at the regional effects on other crossings of adding a new bridge.

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said any future study needs to look further north to determine if traffic will just pile up at the Oak Street Bridge because of the bottleneck at the entrance to Vancouver.

Jackson said that concern is overstated, adding large numbers of vehicles stop in Richmond – for jobs, shopping, access to the airport and to board the Canada Line – rather than driving into Vancouver.

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said adding more lanes of traffic will intensify pressure to develop farmland in Surrey and Delta.

"We have to look at the big picture," said North Vancouver City Mayor Darrell Mussatto. "Otherwise we are going to have a region dominated by the automobile forever."

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