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HomeNewsMassive $3.5B bridge still means big ships are coming to the Fraser: documents

Massive $3.5B bridge still means big ships are coming to the Fraser: documents

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Bob Mackin

Remember when the B.C. Liberal government issued its “Debunking Massey replacement myths” news release in early 2016? 

Alleged “Myth #4” about the $3.5 billion plan to replace the four-lane tunnel with a 10-lane bridge was “this project is being driven by Port Metro Vancouver.” 

The 1959-built Massey Tunnel (Mackin)

The 1959-built Massey Tunnel (Mackin)

Documents released under freedom of information laws show that Port of Vancouver was indeed deeply involved in lobbying the government to replace the tunnel with a bridge. The federal Port authority wants bigger freighters to ply the Fraser River.

A Feb. 16, 2016 “Marine Clearance” briefing note to Todd Stone, the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, claimed four of the six tunnel segments would be removed to make way for the bridge. It said there would be no significant impact on the size of the ships because of other utilities and the tunnel is “currently flush with the bottom of the river channel.”

“In early discussions, [Port of Vancouver] informally advised of potentially larger Post-Panamax vessels using the River (366m length x 49m beam x 15.2m draft), as well as a preference for a clearance of 65 m to allow for Solstice class cruise ships to pass under the new bridge,” said the briefing note by project director Geoff Freer.

The government has consistently spun this project as a road traffic bottleneck remover, and its myth-debunker claimed that the bridge would be the same height as the Alex Fraser Bridge. But that news release omitted some important details. 

Freer’s briefing note for Stone further says that the new bridge will still be high enough for most of the ships in the world to navigate under.

“[Port of Vancouver] have agreed that air clearances similar to the Alex Fraser Bridge are acceptable. These clearances range from 57 to 60 metres for a two-way shipping channel and 59 to 63 metres for a one-way shipping channel (the range is resulting from various tide levels).

“These proposed navigation envelopes would allow the passage for most of the world shipping fleet, including 94% of bulk carriers, 89% of container ships and 62% of liquid bulk (LNG) carriers, for a two-way channel; and 98% of bulk carriers, 96% of container ships and 70% of liquid bulk (LNG) carriers, for a one-way channel.”

B.C. government rendering of the proposed $3.5 billion Richmond-to-Delta bridge.

B.C. government rendering of the proposed $3.5 billion Richmond-to-Delta bridge.

This means that shipping traffic up and down the Fraser still stands to increase with a bridge replacing the tunnel.

Signs near the tunnel say that construction is to begin in 2017. Completion would be as early as 2022.

The above information came under FOI from Stone’s budget estimates briefing book, which I requested on May 2, 2016. 

It was finally delivered to me on Jan. 6, 2017. What should have been disclosed in 30 business days or less took eight calendar months and then some.

This is the kind of lacklustre performance that has become the hallmark of the BC Liberals under Premier Christy Clark. 

Stone is the minister who was at the centre of the Triple Delete scandal in 2015. He is also co-chair, with Deputy Premier Rich Coleman, of the BC Liberal re-election committee, aka the committee to re-elect the Premier.

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