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

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

A recent virtual gala raised $150,000 for Abbotsford Hospice Society and its Holmberg House. (Abbotsford Hospice Society photo)
Abbotsford Hospice’s Light Up the Night gala raises almost $150K

Virtual event included pre-show drive-thru pickup of farm-fresh meals

Matthew Balogh was last seen in Abbotsford on Sunday, April 18 at 10 a.m.
Police seek help in locating missing 17-year-old in Abbotsford

Matthew Balogh was last seen at 10 a.m. on Sunday, April 18

Michael Colmant, a former manager of Abbotsford International Airport, was killed in a hit-and-run in Washington state while he was riding his bicycle.
Abbotsford man dies in hit-and-run while cycling in Washington

Seattle police still searching for driver of vehicle that killed Michael Colmant

Sasquatch Days typically takes place in May but has been canceled the past two years due to COVID-19. The Sts’ailes First Nation recently announced this year’s cancelation. (Photo/Tourism Harrison)
2021 Sasquatch Days canceled due to COVID-19

Second year in a row the pandemic canceled this event

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

John Wekking, Merritt Road Report - Facebook
 Coquihalla Road Report
Wildfire sparks off Coquihalla in Merritt

The wildfire is located near the Dollarama off of Highway 5

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/YouTube.com screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

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

Most Read