In 2013, the B.C. government announced plans to replace the George Massey Tunnel with a bridge. Construction of the new span between Delta and Richmond is expected to begin in 2017.
At the time of the announcement, Premier Christy Clark stated the goal was to reduce congestion through the existing tunnel and improve travel time for transit, commuters and commercial users.
Since then, we’ve often heard speculation the bridge is being built to allow for more trade and larger ships using the Fraser River. Some even confuse our community office in Ladner for the bridge project office.
The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority supports the project because it will ease traffic congestion from Roberts Bank.
A new bridge will improve highway safety, reduce greenhouse gas emissions from unnecessary idling, and save rush-hour commuters up to 30 minutes a day. It will address the worst traffic bottleneck in the province and bring travel time reliability to one of our most important transportation corridors, serving our national and regional economies.
The Province of B.C. leads the project and consulted Vancouver Fraser Port Authority on proposed designs because the port authority has navigational jurisdiction of the waterway and therefore is required to ensure any overhead or underwater structures do not impede current or future shipping.
The George Massey Tunnel primarily handles commuter and ferry-related traffic. Truck traffic heading to or from Roberts Bank terminals accounts for less than three per cent of total traffic through the tunnel during peak traffic periods. With the proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project running at maximum capacity, projected port-related truck traffic would account for approximately five per cent of total traffic through the corridor.
Considering Canada’s future trade needs, including provincial plans to develop LNG, the port authority provided the province with measurements that would accommodate the largest ships that could reasonably use the river (LNG tankers and cruise ships).
This project has no bearing on the port authority’s plans to manage increasing trade on the Fraser River, as the existing tunnel is not constraining the current development potential of the river. Internationally, ships are getting larger to be more economically and environmentally efficient, but removing the tunnel in favour of a bridge will not significantly change the size of ships that are able to use the channel for a number of reasons. The new bridge will be the same height above the water as the existing Alex Fraser Bridge, so maximum vessel height will remain unchanged. Other impediments to larger ships are the shallower depth of the river at its mouth, the width of the river – which does not allow very large vessels to turn – and various underwater pipeline crossings.
vice president, operations and planning
Vancouver Fraser Port Authority