A couple of weeks ago the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project team hosted a one-day display of what the new bridge would look like. This followed public forums in 2012 and 2013 where five scenarios were proposed. Three of those called for the tunnel to remain. I can echo many by saying the bridge - in isolation - looks good. However, there are caveats.
Six months after the consultation in 2013, the premier announced a 10-lane bridge. Curious about how we got there from the five choices, I asked what information the premier had when she made the announcement.
I had to file a formal freedom of information request (FOI) with the premier's office, asking for reports and analysis that allowed her to make the announcement. The response came back: "Although a thorough search was conducted, no records were located in response to your request." Getting nothing from that source, I then asked the project team. How does the cost for a 10-lane bridge compare with fixing the tunnel and adding another tunnel or bridge? "It was a wash [same cost]," they told me.
"Do you have the numbers?" I asked. "No, it was high level," they replied. So I asked, "Well, how about the notes from the discussion and analysis?" "No notes were taken," they replied.
The premier's response was the subject of a question in the legislature by our MLA, Vicki Huntington, last November. The government did not answer; sadly, it just ridiculed the question.
Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone recently stated in this paper, "We thoroughly reviewed all the benefits of all options." He went on to say, "a bridge will be ...more cost effective than a replacement tunnel." Where is this analysis? If it exists, was it done before or after the premier's announcement?
Who has their facts straight?
In 2006, several government organizations from Canada, B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, along with TransLink, YVR and railways, created the Pacific Gateway Action Pan that called for dredging the Fraser River - deeper - which means remove the tunnel. In February 2012 - before the public consultations noted above - the B.C. government met with several others, including Port Metro Vancouver, to plan the strategy for the removal of the George Massey Tunnel.
The premier really didn't need a briefing - the decision had been made years earlier. Why didn't she say this when making the announcement? Why were we misled in the public consultations?
The tunnel's stability to withstand earthquakes has not been properly assessed. Will the bridge towers withstand an earthquake without wobbling about and collapsing the entire bridge superstructure? If the tunnel is to be removed, then let the port pay fees for the ships transiting the river - just like the Panama Canal.
Ian Robertson is a professional engineer and a three-decade resident of South Delta.