Bridge is best option to replace tunnel: minister


Re: Former premier says bridge is a bad idea, Feb. 8

Recently, Mike Harcourt has been suggesting that a twinned tunnel is the best option to replace the aging George Massey Tunnel. This is simply not borne out by the facts, or by the opinions of the thousands of consultation participants that took the time to share their views over a period of more than four years.

The existing 60-year-old tunnel does not meet current seismic standards, nor can it be brought up to current standards without risk of damage, which could render the crossing unusable. This same risk would require that a "twin tunnel" be built much farther upstream (or downstream) to avoid risk of damage during construction.

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As a result, compared to building a new bridge, construction of a new (or twin) tunnel would take more agricultural land, would be more difficult and risky to construct, would be more environmentally invasive and require more long-term maintenance.

It would be more seismically vulnerable if the old tunnel was retained. And it certainly could not be done for the $1.7 billion Harcourt suggests.

Harcourt also suggests the bridge project will cost $4.7 billion, rather than $3.5 billion, citing an Oxford study on international transportation projects from 2003 that found bridge projects over the previous 50 years were on average 30 per cent over budget. What he didn't relay while advocating for a tunnel was that the same study has tunnel projects worldwide at more than 48 per cent over budget.

More importantly, the study he references is from nearly 15 years ago, and our experience with major infrastructure projects means we are much more accurate with our estimates than before 2003. I'll point to the recently finished and opened Evergreen Line to reinforce this point: We built that line $75 million under its $1.43 billion budget - despite the many challenges we faced along the way.

I am confident we will build the Massey replacement bridge within the $3.5 billion budget.

Harcourt also suggests we wait 20 years to fix the worst traffic bottleneck in B.C., while the population continues to grow. That is simply not an option.

I do agree with Harcourt that traffic congestion and bottlenecks, among other things, are harming our economic future. That's why our government has taken action, by replacing the Port Mann, and by adding the South Fraser Perimeter Road, Canada Line and Evergreen Line. We've also recently announced plans to add capacity to the Alex Fraser, and improve Highway 1 through North Vancouver.

The George Massey Tunnel needs to be replaced. Following extensive technical analysis, a bridge was deemed by experts as the best solution. I invite all your readers to visit the project website at and read the analysis of options.

Construction of the new 10-lane bridge will begin later this year.

Todd Stone

Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure

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