All things environmental

Musings about the environment and all it touches, from education to city planning

The Massey tunnel, the bridge, and Harold Steves

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The proposed bridge over Deas Island, as rendered in the vancouver Sun

The proposed bridge over Deas Island, as rendered in the vancouver Sun

So our Premier has announced a plan to replace the Massey Tunnel with a bridge; it’s all over the news (for instance, here and here).

There will be direct environmental impacts, of course.  The bridge, if built, will change the character of Deas Island and will destroy a popular neighbouring produce farm and market.

And that’s all the media see fit to discuss.  But it doesn’t begin to address the fundamental question: how do we address transportation planning in the context of climate change.

At least Metronews got a reaction from Richmond councillor Harold Steves.   Steves, who was instrumental in setting up the ALR to protect farm land, is quoted as saying:

It will take away a tremendous amount of farmland on both sides,” he said.  “There is only one reason to do it, and it’s for commercial interests. They’re turning over the use of the river to heavy industry, instead of light industry and fisheries like it is now.”

Which is quite good, but when one follows the trail of comments left behind on facebook sites, one discovers that Steves has quite a bit more to say:

The only reason for replacing the tunnel with a bridge is to allow massive coal ships, panamex supertankers carrying jet fuel and crude oil tankers to go up and down the river. At present they can only navigate over the tunnel about an hour a day when there is a high enough tide. Studies were done recently to see if the mass of rock covering the tunnel to keep it in place could be removed. Removing it would have endangered the public so the tunnel has to go. Ironically if the port allowed trucks to load at night they could go through the tunnel at night and relieve traffic during rush hour. All that would be needed would be to build a tunnel beside the existing one for LRT to Delta, White Rock and South Surrey. That is what was originally planned in the 1970’s. Why not today?

About the rationale for the bridge of reducing congestion, Steves said:

It won’t even take more cars to simply move the rush hour traffic jam to the Oak Street Bridge. The three main beneficiaries are the Port, the Port and the Port. First the trucks from the Port won’t have to sit in traffic as they don’t go to Vancouver. The Port could alleviate tunnel traffic now if the Port operated at night and kept the trucks out of the tunnel at rush hour. Second, the main obstacle to getting Panamax Supertankers up the river carrying jet fuel will be gone. They will even be able to ship crude oil down the river once a jet fuel terminal is in place. Third, the temporary shipment of dirty Wyoming coal on barges can be changed to massive coal ships. They can’t get over the tunnel at present. With fishing constantly closed on the river, the change to heavy industrial use of the Fraser River is imminent.

Showing his memory of past projects, Steves continued:

“The George Massey Tunnel will be twinned and both Highway 99 approaches widened from four lanes to six once the provinces more pressing transportation needs are complete”, Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon said. (Richmond Review, Feb. 18, 2006) “A twinned tunnel could also incorporate light rail transit”, said Richmond Councillor Harold Steves, “and ultimately connect to Richmond’s Canada Line”. Richmond should go “flat out” in trying to secure the project, he said. Falcon said he was willing to sit down with Richmond Council and discuss the timing of the tunnel project. What went wrong? There was no consultation. What changed their plans? Jet fuel, dirty Wyoming coal, and even crude oil shipments on the Fraser River, in massive ships and Panamax Supertankers that can’t get over the tunnel!

Sigh.  This is a move in the wrong direction.  I suppose, in the long term, it’s all academic: the tunnel, the bridge, Deas Island, and for that matter all of Richmond will be under water as sea levels rise.  But I would like to think we’re trying to avoid that, as opposed to making happen sooner.

And I sure would like the media to do their job, so I wouldn’t have to search for comments by Steves.  Way to go, Harold, keep it up.


Written by enviropaul

September 23, 2013 at 11:46 am

One Response

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  1. […] while the province’s project to replace the Massey Tunnel with a bridge is perceived to be a giveaway to coal (and oil) exports.  But the bombshell in coal export news was unhearted by Seattle Sightline Institute: Cloud Peak […]

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