The Massey Tunnel was built in 1959 and carries 80

Tunnel rebuild, bus service cuts a tale of two priorities

Province begins public meetings on construction of new Highway 99 crossing of Fraser River

While TransLink asks the public about its plan to selectively cut bus service on some routes, the province is launching its own consultations – on the premier’s recent promise to replace the George Massey Tunnel.

Transportation ministry officials will seek public comment on a new Highway 99 crossing of the Fraser River at five open houses in early December in Richmond, Delta and Surrey.

The existing tunnel has 10 to 15 years of useful life left before major components must be completely replaced, Transportation Minister Mary Polak said.

And since it takes about a decade to plan and build such a project, preliminary work must start now.

“One thing is very clear to us – the status quo is not an option,” Polak said.

A short list of potential replacement options is to be drawn up ahead of more public meetings in the new year.

It’s not yet clear if the new span would be a bridge or a tunnel – or whether it will be tolled.

Meetings are set for Dec. 1 in Delta, Dec. 4 and 11 in Richmond, Dec. 6 in Cloverdale and Dec. 10 in South Surrey. For times and locations see www.masseytunnel.ca and click on consultation.

TransLink, meanwhile, is consulting on its plans to further “optimize” service by cutting frequency at some times on some routes in order to boost it on others, where it believes it can serve more riders and pull in more revenue.

There will be winners and losers, depending on where and when passengers travel, and routes across the region are affected.

See www.translink.ca/serviceop for more details and a list of meetings, which wrap up Dec. 12 in Burnaby.

Transit advocates, who see the two decisions as clashing transportation priorities, say it’s ironic TransLink riders in some areas will soon see less service while planning begins for a costly new bridge or tunnel mega-project on Highway 99.

Gordon Price, director of SFU’s City Program, questions the underlying logic.

He says road and bridge projects are routinely justified by politicians on the basis they save motorists time and therefore money by relieving congestion.

Yet the same calculation isn’t applied to transit service cuts that leave passengers waiting longer, arguably costing them and the economy money.

“Time is treated completely differently,” he said, adding transit delays should also be counted as a cost, and not just as a way of saving money.

Peter Ladner, part of the Get On Board coalition for transit funding, also calls it a funding double standard that puts road work ahead of transit.

“Where’s the consultation on sustainable funding for transit?” he asked. “Surely that has to come first.”