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Politics and Misinformation Must Not Stop Bridge Construction

Jul 11, 2017

At the July 10, 2017 Regular meeting, Delta Council endorsed the recommendations of a report which presents compelling arguments as to why the ageing George Massey Tunnel must be replaced as a matter of urgency, and why the only viable replacement crossing is a new bridge.

View full report by Chief Administrative Officer George V. Harvie regarding the Public Safety and Economic Imperative for the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project.


  • The existing tunnel cannot be sufficiently seismically upgraded (a 1-in-275 year design vs. a 1-in-2475 year design)
  • A replacement tunnel is more expensive ($4.3 billion vs. $3.5 billion) with more associated risk
  • A replacement tunnel is significantly more environmentally damaging than a bridge – requires an open river cut of approximately 150 metres in width, coupled with soil strengthening
  • A replacement tunnel has more negative implications for air quality, agriculture, marine traffic during construction, wildlife and terrestrial habitat, and marine life and habitat
  • A replacement tunnel provides less transportation efficiency and lower incident response capability
  • A replacement tunnel meets fewer evaluation criteria than a bridge at a higher cost

Seismic Concerns:

The George Massey Tunnel was constructed in the 1950s when seismic considerations were in their infancy. The tunnel is not capable of withstanding a moderate to severe earthquake, nor is it technically feasible to upgrade the tunnel to meet current seismic standards.

Natural Resources Canada estimates the risk of a major earthquake in this area is 30% in the next 50 years.

A seismic event causing a tunnel failure may potentially cause the concurrent failure of the Pattullo Bridge, as it has similar seismic concerns. This means that some 157,000 vehicles/day would need an alternative crossing. The Alex Fraser Bridge does not have spare capacity.

There would be immediate and devastating impacts to the region in terms of economy and quality of life. The tunnel is a critical component of the Asia-Pacific Gateway, facilitating trade through Deltaport and with the US.

Construction of a replacement crossing would take at least 5 years and would incur significant cost premiums for the accelerated delivery. There would be major impacts to local, regional and national economies.

Emergency Response:

Incidents in the tunnel are often associated with an unacceptable delay in response times and the provision of critical care. Traffic and the lack of a travel shoulder make accidents difficult to reach and clear. First Responders are forced in some cases to respond on foot carrying emergency equipment. Smoke and fire create additional hazards in a confined space and require a below grade response. A tunnel failure would sever a vital emergency response lifeline – nearly 25 ambulance trips through the tunnel each day.

The Importance of Public Transit:

The tunnel carries more transit passengers than any other non-rapid transit crossing of the Fraser River – 10,000 riders a day. The new bridge includes $500 million in new transit infrastructure, including 50 km of new transit/HOV lanes, integrated transit stops, space for future rapid transit and dedicated transit on-ramps.

In addition, the bridge will provide pedestrian and cyclist connectivity between Richmond and Delta. Providing a continuation of exiting cycling networks at the only current crossing with a broken link.

Public safety is at risk and the solution is known – the new 10 lane bridge is necessary, supported by evidence, and vital for the economy of the region and province.

The new bridge is ready to be constructed - technical studies are complete, public consultation has concluded, approvals have been issued, and preparatory works have begun.

Delta Council is urging the Provincial government to consider the catastrophic implications of a tunnel failure for the region and province, and to proceed, without delay, with the construction of the new bridge.

Get all the facts, view the full report.

For more information on this news release, contact the Mayor’s Office at 604-946-3210 or email, or contact the CAO’s office at 604-946-3212 or email