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

Samantha Lowe won more than $637,000 playing Lotto Max. (BCLC Media Relations/Special to The News)
Maple Ridge woman wins lottery

Samantha Lowe won Lotto Max on Feb. 23

Hospital outbreaks included in Fraser Health update Feb. 28, 2021. (Black Press file)
Fraser Health declares COVID-19 outbreaks at Chilliwack General and Surrey Memorial

The medicine units are temporarily closed but ERs remain open, according to Fraser Health update

Conservative MP Marc Dalton (The News files)
Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows MP votes no to NDP Pharmacare bill

Maple Ridge city councillor disappointed

.
SHARE: Stunning vistas of Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon.

City hall is asking for public input on its greenhouse gas reduction plans.
Maple Ridge wants citizen input on greenhouse gas targets

City hall to host an online webinar on Thursday

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19 vaccination set to start for B.C. seniors aged 80-plus

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen takes part in an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on October 27, 2020. The City of Vancouver says it has purchased a former hotel at a major thoroughfare that can house about 65 units to accommodate homeless people. A joint news release by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and city says 2075 Kingsway, Days Inn by Wyndham Vancouver, will be ready for accommodation this November. The Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen also announced a $51.5 million Rapid Housing Initiative for Vancouver that is expected to create 135 new affordable homes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Former Vancouver hotel to be converted to 65 units for homeless people by the fall

The former Days Inn on Kingsway will be ready to house people in November

B.C. Court of Appeal in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Murder conviction upheld in case where Surrey mom was stabbed in front of her kids

Jury in 2017 found Tanpreet Kaur Athwal, aka Sonia Kaur Gill, guilty of first-degree murder in 2007 death of Amanpreet Bahia, 33

Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Black Press file photo)
Child in critical condition, homicide investigators probe incident near Agassiz

The child was transported to hospital but is not expected to survive

A GoFundMe campaign for Riley Stevens and his family has raised more than $5,700 since launching last week. (Contributed photo)
White Rock mom of sick tot ‘totally blown away’ by donations, offers help

GoFundMe campaign to help family of Riley Stevens crests $5,700

Sewage plant in Lower Mainland, operated by Metro Vancouver. (Metro Vancouver screenshot)
‘Poop tracker’ launches as researchers test Lower Mainland sewage water for COVID-19

‘Studying the virus in wastewater allows researchers to look at an entire population…’

Most Read