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Delta throwback: New tunnel, new name

George Massey, one of Delta’s best known and most important historical figures, spearheaded the construction of the underwater tunnel that now bears his name
george massey with sam cory in delta, bc
A photograph of George Massey (left) and Sam Cory with Massey's map showing a proposed route of a new highway and tunnel.

The new eight-lane tunnel that is to replace the aging George Massey Tunnel in 2030 will have a different name.

The provincial government has stated it plans to come up with new names for the replacement tunnel, currently referred to as the Fraser River Tunnel Project, as well as the Pattullo Bridge replacement.

Opened in 1959, the tunnel was originally called the Deas Island Tunnel.

The structure was renamed the George Massey Tunnel in 1967, three years after his death.

Massey was the driving force in getting a tunnel crossing connecting Delta with Richmond.

He first visualized Delta having such a structure when he moved to the community in the mid-1930s.

Serving a term as Delta's MLA for the Socreds in the late '50s, Massey is credited as a visionary whose maritime experience proved that a tunnel was preferable to a bridge for a river crossing.

Despite gathering data proving it could be built, it look years of lobbying by Massey and others to convince the province to build the $23 million project, which took roughly a couple of years to complete.

An article in a June, 1947 issue of the Optimist outlined plans provided by Massey, who acquired details from the engineering firm Christiani and Nielsen, experienced in tunnel building in Europe.

It was in 1956 when the Social Credit government announced a tunnel would be built, climaxing years of hard work by the Lower River Fraser Crossing Improvement Association, which at its peak had a membership of more than 400.

Massey was the group’s vice-president.

One year after it opened, he reported to Delta council that nearly three million vehicles had travelled through it, scoffing at critics who predicted less than a million would be seen.

The tunnel was tolled until 1964 when Massey paid the ceremonial final toll.

The George Massey Tunnel will be 71-years old when it’s finally decommissioned.