Anyone who’s ever been caught in rush hour near the Massey Tunnel knows it’s a traffic nightmare.
The province has proposed a $3.5-billion dollar bridge to replace it, but it’s met with opposition from nearly all of Metro Vancouver’s mayors.
And now a former B.C. premier is adding his voice to the chorus, saying we can dig our way out of the problem.
LISTEN: Former B.C. Premier Mike Harcourt proposes twinning the tunnel
“The bridge is a dumb idea,” says Mike Harcourt.
The ex-premier isn’t mincing words about his opinion, which is that the bridge option is going to come in about a billion dollars over budget.
“There’s a major study done by Oxford university that shows that the cost of major bridge projects has gone up an average around the world about 35% by the time all the costs are in.”
On top of that, he says it’s an environmental disaster waiting to happen.
“It’s the greatest salmon fishery river in the world. Why would you screw that up?”
Harcourt argues the bridge option is being pushed so coal tankers can be brought up the Fraser to pick up product U.S. ports have turned down, and would destroy prime habitat.
“It would take a lot longer to do the bridge, it would cause a lot more agricultural land to be lost, it would interfere with one of the prime bird habitats that we have, to pick up coal. It’s just crazy.”
“It’s perfect soil for tunnelling,” says Harcourt, arguing that instead of building over the river the province should instead twin the existing tunnel at a lower cost.
He says when engineers built the original one, they actually proposed twinning it at the time because the conditions were perfect.
And he says a tunnel would be safer in an earthquake while avoiding potential future ice-bomb woes.
At the end of the day, Harcourt says the fight over the bridge is a symptom of a failure to address transportation with a long term regional plan.
He says opening the bottleneck alone at the Massey will only move the problem to the Oak, Knight, and Alex Fraser bridges.
And he says while that choke point needs to be addressed, it needs to be done along with changes across the region – something that could be accomplished with widespread, low tolls tied to bridge and transit upgrades.
“Toll them all modestly so that people use the bridges and see where their tolling is going… reduce the tolls on the Port Mann and the Golden Ears from $3.50 a ride now down to a buck or whatever, and toll all the bridges on the understanding that it’s going to be targeted to replacing all those bridges and building out transit.”