Letter: Economy the least of our worries in wake of a quake

Dear Editor,

I’m writing in response to the Delta council report regarding safety of the Fraser River crossing.

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The report specifically states its “purpose” as “the serious safety concerns associated with any potential delay in replacing the George Massey Tunnel with a bridge.”

There is a premise here that needs to be clarified: The tunnel needs to be “replaced by a bridge for safety reasons.”

There is no doubt the Fraser crossing needs to be improved in order to be effective for all traffic and transit needs. However, the safety record of the tunnel speaks for itself. If “the potential for a catastrophic failure of the tunnel is real,” why are the Dutch with a similar and older tunnel not concerned with its safety? 

The second part of the premise is the replacement of the tunnel with a bridge. The road system as it exists will fail before the tunnel will. In the event of a serious earthquake, it will make no difference if a bridge is safer than a tunnel. The bridge, should it survive, will not serve any purpose. If Richmond has the catastrophic results that are predicted with an earthquake of this magnitude, the crossing will be inaccessible and irrelevant.

The “background” of this report is what has been in question all along. The “public engagement” process has been little more than a one-way stream of information. This is made abundantly clear by the fact that Delta Mayor Lois Jackson is the only Metro Vancouver mayor in support of this project. 

The report states that the tunnel replacement “be viewed from a regional and provincial perspective.” The proposed bridge does nothing regionally or provincially; it is just a means to cross the Fraser River. It will only exacerbate regional traffic difficulties.

Delta’s CAO states that Highway 99 is “an important emergency response route.” This is true. What he hasn’t said is that the construction of this bridge will seriously affect this corridor for a period of three to five years.

The fact is that in a seismic event as major as this report discusses, the real issue of the crossings will be how to evacuate and support the affected areas and people, not the economy of Delta or Surrey. 

Peter van der Velden


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