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Community Comment: The problem isn’t the tunnel, it’s the traffic

I have to share the sentiment of my colleague Ingrid Abbott; driving through the tunnel is like driving onto a television set, lights fully ablaze.
George Massey Tunnel
The approach to the George Massey Tunnel in Delta.

I have to share the sentiment of my colleague Ingrid Abbott; driving through the tunnel is like driving onto a television set, lights fully ablaze.

Something is better than nothing, and that’s a whole lot of something, especially early in the morning. Who needs coffee when the bright lights of our beloved commute shine through? Does this signal the delay of an upgraded crossing? Time will tell.

If the pandemic has a silver lining, it’s less traffic, but that won’t last forever. The tunnel was a bottleneck of epic proportions, and needs to be addressed. Eventually, the traffic will return.

I dread the day they start construction of anything around that section of road. It is going to be a gong show. Just like the challenges commuters faced when the new Port Mann Bridge was built. Take the worst crossing and throw in more delays. Wonderful.

But does twinning or replacing the tunnel with a bridge solve the problem? I guess it all depends on what you define the problem being.

If you see the problem as the tunnel being too old and needing to be replaced, then replace it…and deal with the short-term outcome of immense traffic tie-ups as it is being constructed…unless you can still work from home.

But if you see the problem being not enough capacity to get people across the Fraser River, then go about solving that problem, which may or may not include work around the tunnel.

The real problem is a single accident paralyses traffic in Richmond and Delta, because we have limited crossings. If we are serious about solving that problem, then another crossing is the solution.

Connect it to Highway 17, over the river to Richmond and the East-West Connector, and continue on to Boundary Road. Build it without impacting traffic, open it when it’s done. No traffic tie-up, no more arguing about too many cars heading to the Oak Street Bridge. Probably cheaper than renovating, as anyone who renovates a house knows, and a blessed new option should one route be impacted, not just to Delta, but to Richmond as well. Free up some space on the Knight and Oak bridges while you’re at it.

It’s not a new idea, Vicki Huntington, our former MLA, suggested this in 2019, but felt the politicians in Vancouver, Richmond and Burnaby wouldn’t like it.

For anyone who has used Highway 17 to meet up with Highway 1, or get to the Patullo, the SFPR has been a godsend. It was built with little disruption. It was wonderful.

The problem isn’t the tunnel. The problem is the lack of ability to get across the river efficiently. That’s the problem that needs solving.

Brad Sherwin, MBA is a long-time resident of South Delta, and has over 30 years’ experience in marketing, public relations and business strategy. He teaches Marketing at Douglas College, coaches hockey goalies and is Past President of Deltassist.