Delta throwback: Tunnel 'far beyond total saturation'

Let’s go back a few decades to 1979 to see familiar gripes when it comes to the George Massey Tunnel.

A front page story in the Delta Optimist in October that year noted Delta MLA Water Davidson denounced the provincial government for its handling of tunnel traffic.  

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“I am hard-pressed to support government policy which does not take into account, first and foremost, a problem affecting well over 50 per cent of the people in this area" Davidson wrote to Alex Fraser, the transportation and highways minister.

Davidson said he wrote the letter after receiving “at least 50 phone calls” from local commuters.

“I’ve had dozens, literally dozens of irate phone calls,” Davidson explained.

People are fierce, the commuters are in an ugly mood.”

He also said highways staff had to “get off their assess and make this a priority.”

He also suggested Delta residents start a letter writing campaign demanding that the provincial government solve the problem.

He described the situation at the tunnel as "far beyond total saturation” and that “residents on the south side of the Fraser commuting to jobs are daily being threatened with loss of pay and, in some cases, loss of employment, due to congestion.”

Although Davidson admitted a new crossing would help ease the problem, he said the traffic delays would get worse before a newer crossing was built.

Delta Mayor Ernie Burnett agreed, saying he had seen the morning and afternoon lineups start earlier and earlier.

He said he didn’t think there was any solution to the problem and rapid transit was not slated to extend to south Delta “for some years to come.”

A counterflow system was introduced in 1982 to help ease congestion.

A consultant's report four years ago noted that congestion in the off-peak direction (southbound in the morning and northbound in the afternoon) has become worse than in the peak direction during rush hour.

The Alex Fraser Bridge opened in 1986, absorbing much of the growth in traffic demand.

However, the report noted the bridge has free-flowing traffic in the middle of the day, while the tunnel is at or near capacity for much of the day.

Fast forward to 2020 and the provincial government is to announce a preferred option to replace the tunnel later this year, however, it’s looking like a new crossing won’t be available until later this decade, possibly the end of the decade.

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© Delta Optimist

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