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Vancouver Bridge Project Put on Hold

Monday, September 11, 2017

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A multibillion-dollar bridge project planned for Vancouver is on hold as officials in British Columbia look at whether all options for the replacement of the George Massey Tunnel have been properly considered.

The George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project was paused by the New Democratic Party government in the province, which took office in July; preliminary construction commenced in April, and procurement for the bridge itself was underway but has now been canceled. The project, which would involve the construction of a 10-lane bridge across the Fraser River Estuary, had been developed by the previous Liberal Party government.

Massey Bridge rendering
Renderings courtesy of British Columbia Ministry of Transportation

The procurement process for the proposed Massey Bridge, which would replace the 57-year-old Massey Tunnel as a crossing of the Fraser River Estuary, has been canceled as an independent panel reviews other options.

An independent panel, the composition of which has not yet been established, will now review the province’s options for replacing the 57-year-old Massey Tunnel, which is nearing the end of its useful life. The tunnel, with four lanes, has a height restriction of 13 feet, 8 inches.

Possible alternatives to the proposed 10-lane cable-stayed span include a smaller bridge, repairs to the current tunnel or a new twin tunnel to supplement the existing one.

Bridge Tug-of-War

Some local officials and citizens had criticized the project, which was estimated at CA$3.5 billion (upwards of $2.5 billion), based on environmental concerns and the massive cost. When ground was broken for the project in April, the ceremony was moved inside a nearby fire hall in light of protesters outside. In February, the provincial Ministry of Environment and Climate Change denied a request from local officials in the area for an environmental review of the project.

According to the CBC, during this year’s election campaign cycle, the NDP claimed leaked communications showed the project could end up costing as much as CA$12 billion.

Massey Bridge rendering

Three joint ventures had been in the running to become the private partner on the job, estimated at CA$3.5 billion.

The Massey Bridge, as planned, would have been the longest cable-stayed bridge in North America, at 3 kilometers (about 1.85 miles). Three joint ventures were in contention for the bridge contract prior to the cancellation of the bidding process, and the Liberal government had projected the new bridge would open in 2022.

About CA$70 million has reportedly already been spent on the project, though the new government says regardless of the outcome, the Massey project will build on work that was done in preparation for the bridge, so that money will not have been wasted.

Port Mann Controversy

The government of British Columbia is currently under fire for the way funds were handled on the CA$2.97 billion Port Mann Bridge project, which was completed in 2012. A recent investigative report published by the CBC alleges that the province spent CA$150 million on change orders from a contractor on the job because the contractor reported that the project was 18 months behind schedule. In reality, though, insiders told the network, the job was only about two months off target.

In the end, the bridge opened on schedule in December 2012, and the Crown Corporation in charge of the project told the CBC it recovered the costs through negotiations with the contractor.

The 10-lane Port Mann Bridge was the widest bridge in the world when it opened, and is the second-longest cable-stayed bridge in North America.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Government; Public-private partnerships (P3)

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