Traffic patterns support new Deas bridge: official

Transit usage surprisingly high through Massey Tunnel, most traffic between Surrey, Richmond and Delta

The provincial point man in charge of replacing the Massey Tunnel with a new bridge is rejecting criticism that the megaproject will merely shift the Highway 99 traffic jam north to the Oak Street and Knight Street bridges.

Geoff Freer, executive director of the Gateway Program, said traffic data gathered so far shows most of the northbound tunnel traffic doesn’t enter Vancouver – 60 per cent of motorists using it go between Richmond, Surrey, Delta, the U.S. border or the BC Ferries terminal in Tsawwassen.

In the past, he said, replacement of the tunnel with a higher capacity crossing was ruled out on the basis it would just move the bottleneck.

But traffic patterns have changed greatly, Freer said in an interview following the premier’s Sept. 22 announcement of the new bridge.

“I was surprised,” he said of the findings, but added it reflects strong economic growth in the three cities.

Another key change is the Canada Line, which opened in 2010 and now draws many Vancouver-bound commuters through the tube to Bridgeport Station in Richmond who previously drove over the Oak Street Bridge.

Freer said TransLink counts show 50 per cent of all people travelling through the tunnel in the morning rush hour do so aboard buses.

That reflects the ability of buses to speed past congested rush hour traffic using bus-only lanes and queue jumpers – which he said are working well.

Even the day-long average mode share of trips taken by transit through the tunnel is strong at 26 per cent, he said.

Adding to the numbers are BC Ferry passengers who increasingly walk on and ride a bus from Tsawwassen.

Critics have warned the new bridge could set back transit, making it easier to drive instead, while sucking away billions of dollars that could otherwise build new SkyTrain or light rail lines.

But Freer argued it will improve transit by giving buses dedicated transit lanes so they no longer merge with regular traffic to enter the tunnel.

The project would also be designed for future rapid transit, although there’s no timeline or plan for adding it.

“There are an awful lot of people who can never use transit for various reasons,” Freer said, listing trades people, goods movers and others making multiple stops.

He confirmed the project could cost on the order of $3 billion, in line with the Port Mann/Highway 1 Project, but it’s too early to narrow that down.

As for whether the new bridge would be tolled like the Port Mann, Freer said more work is required to decide that.

Adding tolls would affect use of the bridge – Freer confirmed that will have to be explored as part of detailed traffic modeling – but he said that won’t happen before next spring.

Engineers will consider upgrades along the length of Highway 99 right from the U.S. border to Bridgeport Road in Richmond.

Freer doesn’t anticipate the addition of more highway lanes, but rather interchange upgrades and lengthening on-ramps for safer merging.

The biggest changes would be to the interchanges on either side of the tunnel.

A provincial government video (view below) depicted the bridge as having 10 lanes, but Freer said more work is needed to decide the number of lanes.

He predicted there will be “very little impact if any” on agricultural land and Metro Vancouver’s Deas Island Regional Park, where bridge piers would be placed, could actually grow in size because of the removal of the tunnel approach.

He said the tunnel is the region’s worst pinch point because it’s the only one where rush hour traffic is cut to a single lane in the off-peak direction for hours at a time.

The old tunnel would be removed to allow larger ships passage upriver.

Freer said keeping it makes no sense.

It would cost “millions” to rehabilitate beyond its current 10-year useful lifespan, he said, and it will never meet modern standards for lane widths, emergency responder access or earthquake protection.

See related story: Mayors aim to tie new bridge to tolls, referendum

Surrey North Delta Leader

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Human Rights Tribunal denies church’s request to toss out White Rock Pride Society’s complaint

Star of the Sea and White Rock Pride Society to go to Human Rights Tribunal hearing

Surrey RCMP searching for missing 12-year-old boy

Landon Vangeel-Morgan was last seen 9:14 p.m., May 30 near 96 Avenue and 150 Street

COVID-19: Daily update on pandemic in Surrey, White Rock and beyond

Provincial Health Officer officially bans overnight kids’ camps this summer

Surrey RCMP look for missing man

Tyler Ridout, 36, last seen near Balsam Crescent and 136th Street

Police watchdog investigating death of man in Delta

Independent Investigations Office asking for witnesses to May 29 incident at Tsawwassen ferry terminal

VIDEO: Injured bald eagle rescued in B.C. First Nations community

Bird suspected injured in fight, whisked off to Coquitlam rehab

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

We’re asking you to lock arms with us, as we look to better days ahead

B.C.’s Central Kootenay region declares state of emergency, issues evacuation orders

The evacuation alert covers all areas except the Cities of Castelgar and Nelson

‘I’m afraid’: Witnesses of wolf attack on senior near Prince Rupert worried about safety

Frank Russ shows where the unprovoked wolf attacked his father

Protesters prepare to rally against racism in front of Vancouver Art Gallery

Rally is in response to the deaths of black Americans and a Toronto woman

Protesters rally against anti-black, Indigenous racism in Toronto

Police estimated the crowd to be between 3,500 and 4,000 and said there was no violence

Feds earmark $1.5M to support recovery of B.C., Indigenous tourism

B.C. money will be split between Vancouver Island and Indigenous tourism

‘We’re sick of it’: Anger over police killings shatters U.S.

Tens of thousands marched to protest the death of George Floyd

Father’s Day Walk Run for prostate cancer will be virtual event this year throughout B.C.

The annual fundraiser for Prostate Cancer Foundation BC has brought in $2.5 million since 1999

Most Read