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Tunnel opened door that changed Delta forever

Editor: Recent letters to the editor and comments by yourself maligning the George Massey Tunnel as being a disgrace, antiquated and inadequate require a reply.


Recent letters to the editor and comments by yourself maligning the George Massey Tunnel as being a disgrace, antiquated and inadequate require a reply.

I arrived in Ladner after crossing the Fraser River on the Delta Princess ferry with my father, George Massey, my first mother Doris and my sister Doreen (Kushnir) in November of 1936. One of my father's first comments was, "Why isn't there a tunnel here?"

At that time Ladner was a quiet, isolated farming and fishing community, along with the Tsawwassen Indian Reserve.

The only way to reach Vancouver was by ferry to Richmond, which had only been established in 1913, then across the Marpole Bridge.

Before that, you either had to have a rowboat, canoe or catch a paddle wheeler. The Pattullo Bridge was not open until 1937.

My father pursued the idea of a better means to cross the Fraser River from the time he arrived, and with the support of the Ladner and Richmond communities, they were able to convince the provincial government that a tunnel was the best means of crossing the Fraser River.

It would take less agricultural land for the approaches than a high level bridge, nor would it require the same foundation conditions and require less fuel to make the crossing.

A company called Christiani & Nielsen Corporation designed the tunnel.

Plans included a 16-foot wide bicycle lane and a 14foot wide pedestrian lane, along with white ceramic tile through the tunnel that would have allowed for better lighting, maintenance and safety. They were cut by government as the situation, in its opinion, did not warrant it.

The tunnel was opened for traffic on May 23, 1959 and by Oct. 31 one million vehicles had used it.

So where is the problem? Much of the present congestion is during rush hour on the north side of the tunnel at No. 5 Road and Steveston Highway where they merge, with little or no storage capacity for vehicles waiting to enter Highway 99. And as you enter the Oak Street Bridge you come to a complete halt where you meet the intersection at West 70th Avenue.

How do improve these situations without great cost and disruption of the residential and business community?

For one, you could improve the lighting by lining the tunnel with the white ceramic tile as was originally designed and reroute heavy truck traffic to the South Fraser Perimeter Road as soon as it's completed.

Let us review Delta before the tunnel was built:

There was no Delta Hospital, Boundary Bay Airport, Tsawwassen ferry terminal, Roberts Bank port, highway, railway and transmission lines cutting through our farm community and the Tsawwassen Indian Reserve and disrupting the ecosystem of our fish and wildfowl.

Nor was there any major residential development outside of the village of Ladner.

Building the tunnel opened a door that changed the Delta, for better or worse, into what it is today.

It might be considered an eyesore by some, but if the tunnel had never opened, none of the people or the developments mentioned above would exist in Delta today.

There is no question that what has taken place in Delta by the senior levels of government should have given the people of Delta greater consideration for their livability and the preservation of the ecosystem around them.

Building yet another bridge or tunnel across the Fraser River would not be the answer, as it would only take up more farmland on both sides of the river, do more damage to Burns Bog and not solve the real problem.

We need better planning that does not require everyone to use their vehicles to get to work, and the senior governments to remember that people and their surroundings are as important as the economic development they wish to pursue.

Douglas George Massey