It is 7 AM, dark and raining which is usual for a November commute on the 99. I slow down as I approach the brake lights quivering off the wet pavement ahead. Eventually I come to a stop behind a long line of traffic – 4 km from the Massey Tunnel. Probably an accident caused by another stupid driver who weaves and darts through traffic only discover too late that the traffic has stopped ; or is it just volume plugging the route? Either way it is going to be a long wait yet again. The year is 1982 and the traffic is horrible.
Built in 1959, the Massey Tunnel was considered one of the world’s top engineering feats of its time but by the late 1970’s it is close to capacity and by the 1980’s hours of wait time are common. There was no alternative. There was no counter flow lane through the tunnel, no transit and our traffic-saviour, the promised Alex Fraser bridge, was yet to be built. The new bridge to come will be 6 lanes wide and the world’s longest cable-stayed bridge in the world! Surely this will be the end to our traffic woes and we all can drive with contented smiles on our faces and move freely again unimpeded on our commute, just like the 1950’s.
Patiently we endure the traffic pain awaiting the new bridge. On Sept. 21, 1986,the day before the bridge is opened to traffic, the public is invited to walk the new bridge. People showed up in droves and marvel at the engineering feat. Our family attended too. We were amazed and awestruck at the sheer size and height of the massive structure. Banners fly, speeches are made and pictures taken – let the commute begin! We won’t need the full 6 lanes for at least ten years they say. So two lanes are opened each way to start and the tunnel traffic is free to move again – yay!!
All is okay again for about three years but as the saying goes, “Build it and they will come“. And they did. So it starts again. The traffic volume grows quickly on the new bridge. Despite further improvements to the traffic flow, the new Alex Fraser Bridge bridge is plugged and traffic congested in long waits so all 6 lanes were opened just four years after opening – not ten. And this bridge has no transit service options either – it just serves cars. As for the tunnel, well it is plugged again and the waits are long and frustrating as ever and getting worse. It is 1990.
Now fast forward 25 years to 2015. There is still no viable transit alternatives to cross the river. (Skytrain has helped but it only services North Surrey). Both the Alex Fraser Bridge and the Tunnel are traffic nightmares again and have been for many years and the old decrepid Patullo Bridge is useless. But wait! A big announcement from our Provincial government!! Our traffic saviour is revealed: A new 10 lane bridge will be built to replace the Tunnel. Surely this will end the congestion and all will be good again – just like the 1950’s
Wait a minute. I don’t remember any discussion on a new bridge to replace the Tunnel let alone a 10 lane bridge that was suddenly announced with great fanfare. Further, why are there billions of dollars for this new bridge and no money for transit? Look closely, it is a bridge to nowhere. Yes, it will deliver cars faster across the river but it will dump even more cars onto existing roads that in turn converge onto two old bridges that are already plugged. How does this make any sense at all? – The answer: it doesn’t.
A new crossing may be necessary but let’s have the discussion and explore the options and the alternatives and coordinate the issues in a regional transportation plan. I drove this commute for several years so I know what it is like. (Yes I am a culprit too but there was no alternatives and there still isn’t). But I also know that a bridge that adds even more cars is not the answer either and never will be.
A report from Metro Vancouver finds the province hasn’t considered alternatives to a 10-lane bridge nor has it accounted for the ecological disruption the bridge would cause and is trying to download major costs onto local governments at a time when world-wide research and experience has shown that continued expansion to accommodate cars does not work. So where did this idea come from?
This is just one example of the arrogance from our government that is pushing mega projects ahead with no transparency, no process, no consultation or science behind it. It is time this arrogance and lack of process is stopped. The public must be involved in a meaningful way to find real solutions.
More examples at:
flawed process and
Provincial propaganda (Patrick Johnstone, Councillor, New Westminster). Quoted from his article,…”There is no doubt the Ministry has talked to many people, but to say they have “consulted” is quite the stretch. The City where the majority of the project has taken place is claiming they have not been listened to, and are not in favour of the project, the regional government is opposed, as are all of the local governments (save one). No defensible business case has been presented answering for the project”; and
“This is a project with no reasoned justification, no supported business case, no alignment with any other regional plan or transportation initiative. It is a megaproject that stands in opposition to regional growth plans, regional transportation plans, and provincial and federal GHG reduction plans, and will undermine them all. It’s a bad idea at a bad time, badly presented for bad reasons”