Doug Massey wants the tunnel named after his father to be kept after the new river crossing from Deas Island replaces it in 2017.

Massey’s son aims to protect tunnel from demolition

Doug Massey says his father convinced the B.C. government to build a tunnel instead of bridge.

The son of the man widely credited for Delta’s first Fraser River crossing into Richmond wants to see his father’s life work saved from demolition.

Doug Massey, a former municipal councillor, says he doesn’t want the new bridge renamed after his father, George Massey.

“It doesn’t reflect my father’s wishes or dreams,” he said. “He wasn’t responsible for a bridge being built, he was responsible for the tunnel being built.”

Massey has started an online petition to retain the George Massey Tunnel after the new crossing is built and it has received 83 signatures since Sept. 23. He plans on beginning a paper petition as well.

If the tunnel is saved it could be used as a direct access from Ladner to Richmond and also as an express route for emergency vehicles, said Massey.

“The present tunnel doesn’t allow for bicycles but if you left it you could have one lane for pedestrians and bicycles and the other for rapid transit,” he said.

Massey has numerous concerns about the new bridge, including the length of approach that will be required for elevation gain and whether the tunnel will have to be closed during construction on the same footprint.

“As far as I’m concerned a tunnel would be more logical for that section of the area because the ground level is so flat,” said Massey.

It’s an opinion that was passed down to him from his father.

When George Massey arrived in Delta from Ireland in 1936 he would take the ferry from Captain’s Cove to Richmond and ask people why there wasn’t a tunnel from Deas Island.

That idea went against the conventional wisdom at the time–that a bridge would eventually be built there, an idea supported by local businesses and the New Westminster Harbour Board.

But George Massey worked tirelessly to convince the people of Delta and Richmond that a tunnel made the most sense because it would have a much smaller footprint than a bridge, and he devoted the rest of his life to seeing it happen. Massey’s plans for the tunnel were inspired by the construction of the Maastunnel in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

He formed the Lower Fraser River Crossing Improvement Association and developed maps explaining why a tunnel made the most sense. After being elected MLA to represent Delta in 1956 he managed to convince the legislature, too.

In 1967, three years after his death, Richmond city council led the call to rename the tunnel to honour George Massey’s work.

Doug Massey said he agrees that Delta needs another crossing but had assumed it would be from Tilbury Island. He said the tunnel was designed to last 100 years and still has a lot of use left.

The only problem is that it was designed to traffic conditions in 1959 and doesn’t have enough lanes, he added.

Doug Massey said the new bridge is only being built so the channel can be dredged deeper for coal and oil exports.

“The intended purpose should always be to move people but it’s for ships and trucks,” he said, adding the tunnel is a road block for the federal and provincial government to move raw materials.

On Sept. 20, Premier Christy Clark announced a new bridge will replace the Massey Tunnel and work will begin in 2017.

Although no announcement has been made on tolls, they are expected to be implemented as they were for the Golden Ears and Port Mann bridges. The Massey Tunnel opened with tolls in 1959 and continued until the construction costs were paid off in 1964.

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