Rapid transit key to proposed tunnel’s lifespan

It’s not like any of us will be around to call them on it.

As you likely know by now, mayors and First Nations chiefs in this part of the region have reached a consensus when it comes to a new crossing of the south arm of the Fraser River and have recently written Premier John Horgan to urge him to get going on an eight-lane tunnel.

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First off, Delta Mayor George Harvie deserves credit for bringing the politicians together so they could all get on the same page, which has provided the united voice the province sought. To get there Harvie had to give up on the dream of a 10-lane bridge, and while I completely understand the pragmatism, I wonder what that will mean moving forward.

In their letter to the premier, the regional politicians stated the crossing should include six lanes for regular traffic as well as two lanes for transit and that it should be designed to serve the needs of the region to at least 2100. I’m not so sure those two points are necessarily compatible.

Given the four-lane George Massey Tunnel struggles mightily to cope with today’s traffic volumes, you would need to add another lane in each direction simply to address the rush hour congestion experienced present day. You get that with the proposed crossing, but that’s the extent of the additional vehicle lanes, which puts a heck of a lot of pressure on those two transit lanes, which are anticipated to be rapid bus at opening with the ability to convert to rail sometime in the future.

I realize that building your way out of congestion is a fantasy, so the transit component of any new crossing was always going to be a massive part of any effort to keep commuters moving, however, it’s also a fairy tale to think that a tunnel with barely enough vehicle lanes to handle today’s traffic is somehow going to serve a far flung region for the next 80 years.

Buses already get to push to the front of the line, so adding dedicated lanes across the water will only help so much. In other words, if those lanes are really going to be effective in reducing the single-occupant vehicles that clog the highways, they’ve got to provide some sort of rapid transit option.

Otherwise, the tunnel idea being shopped won’t make it anywhere close to 2100.

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