The B.C. government wants to replace the four-lane George Massey Tunnel with an eight-lane tunnel with two dedicated transit lanes. (Black Press)

The B.C. government wants to replace the four-lane George Massey Tunnel with an eight-lane tunnel with two dedicated transit lanes. (Black Press)

GUEST COLUMN: Truckers can’t support 8-lane Massey tunnel

B.C. Trucking Association cites safety and congestion issues

By Dave Earle, BCTA President

Earlier this month, the Metro Vancouver board endorsed an eight-lane immersed tube tunnel as its preferred replacement option for the existing George Massey Tunnel. The board’s recommendation will now go to the province, which has committed to public consultations in November and December. While it seems the decision is all but made, we continue to hope the province will choose another option.

We’ve already heard many arguments opposed to the tunnel. Not only will it add extensive costs and delays to the project, it will have a significant environmental impact on the Fraser River. There’s also the fact that the eight-lane tunnel won’t address one of the main problems with the existing tunnel: congestion. With one transit lane in each direction, that leaves only three lanes for vehicles, which is what we have now for traffic travelling at peak periods in the rush-hour direction.

Notwithstanding all these concerns, and they are important ones, they don’t include another three major problems that are of critical concern to the road transportation industry: the tunnel’s impact on safety, affordability, and transportation-related emissions.

To start, it’s unclear how the proposed eight-lane tunnel option will address safety challenges associated with a tunnel crossing, given the high collision rate in the existing tunnel and unsafe conditions for emergency responders. The provincial government’s 2016 health impact assessment of the tunnel replacement project found that the stretch of road including the tunnel, Steveston Highway and Highway 17A had a higher than average crash rate and that tunnel crashes tended to be more severe than crashes elsewhere on the Highway 99 corridor.

RELATED: Metro Vancouver endorses eight-lane Massey tunnel

RELATED: Bridge cost estimate reduced, Delta council told

We also know a 2015 report estimated that a bridge option could reduce the frequency of collisions by approximately 35 per cent. And building a new tunnel, even with improved geometrics, can’t completely resolve these safety concerns for either emergency responders or motorists. For example, fires resulting from a crash will lower visibility and air quality, making conditions much more dangerous than on a bridge, even in a better-designed tunnel.

The tunnel also creates congestion-related delays, unpredictable travel times, and it can’t accommodate oversized shipments or trucks carrying dangerous goods such as fuel. This affects affordability and emissions because all these limitations force some heavy trucks to use alternate routes.

The result is trucks incurring additional travel time and fuel consumption, creating congestion on other routes, and ultimately generating higher transportation costs and emissions. With a new tunnel a minimum of five years away there will be no congestion relief for some time, and we expect any tunnel to include the same restrictions on oversized cargo and dangerous goods. It’s no wonder some businesses are considering relocating from communities like Richmond to avoid extra costs and delays, taking local jobs with them.

From a goods movement perspective, the B.C. Trucking Association (BCTA) would prefer a replacement bridge because it’s safest for road users and emergency personnel, it will improve efficiency and affordability by reducing transportation-related costs, and less congestion will also mean fewer emissions. But this project also raises a persistent and troubling theme in the way important decisions on transportation infrastructure are made in the Lower Mainland: efficient goods movement is not a major consideration.

In this case, goods movement through the George Massey crossing seems to have been an afterthought. This is surprising and unfortunate considering the trucking industry transports approximately 90 per cent of all consumer goods and the importance of goods movement to the regional economy – and to B.C.’s economy as a whole. Case in point is the claim from the 2018 Independent Technical Review that there will be congestion in the new tunnel by 2045. The review justified this because it will encourage drivers of single occupancy vehicles to shift to other modes of transportation. I don’t know how this will help commercial vehicles, because goods can’t take transit. If we want a safe, efficient and affordable transportation system, we need to start making goods movement a real part of these conversations.

The B.C. Trucking Association represents more than 1,200 truck and motor coach fleets and 250 suppliers to the industry. BCTA members operate more than 13,000 vehicles and employ 26,000 people.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

District of Hope flag (Photo/Adam Louis)
District of Hope Council: Additional Notes, Feb. 22

Next meeting scheduled for March 8

Alan Pryor in 2015, during the Agassiz Fire Department’s 70th year. (Greg Laychak/The Observer)
Agassiz fireman celebrates 51 years at the hall

Al Pryor has been a key member in the Agassiz Fire Department since he was 16

Local COVID-19 case numbers have been on the rise for three weeks running, according to the most recent data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. (Graphic/Adam Louis)
Seven new COVID-19 cases for Hope area

Numbers have been on the rise for the past three weeks

RCMP were on scene under the Menzies Street bridge in Chilliwack on Thursday, March 4, 2021 where a body was found. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
UPDATE: Body found under Menzies bridge in Chilliwack that of man in 20s

Death not considered suspicious, said Chilliwack RCMP

The eastern Fraser Valley is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases.
11 new COVID-19 cases in Agassiz, Harrison during last week of February

The number of positive test results is a jump from the three cases the week before

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

Burnaby Mounties responded to 56 complaints and issued 10 tickets to people flouting COVID-19 restrictions in February. (Patrick Davies/100 Mile Free Press)
COVID denier fined $2,300 for hosting gathering in her home: Burnaby RCMP

The woman told Mounties she does not believe the pandemic is real

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith stands in front of his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster float. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks’ Flying Spaghetti Monster leader still boiling over driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith, head of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., said he has since spoken to lawyers

RCMP members responded to calls of a man-down at Landsdowne mall in Richmond Wednesday afternoon. The 40-year-old was suffering from stab wounds. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man in critical condition following afternoon attack outside Richmond mall: RCMP

The Vancouver resident was found lying injured outside Richmond’s Lansdowne Centre

Most Read