In 1959, Queen Elizabeth opened the George Massey Tunnel to overwhelming support. The 629-metre long tunnel was considered an engineering marvel and was the first project in North America to use immersed tube technology. Six concrete segments, each measuring 344 feet long and weighing 18,500 tons, were constructed on a dry dock, connected, sealed and sunk into place.
The Tunnel was originally a tolled crossing, with travellers paying $0.50 per trip. Tolls were removed in 1964 when the majority of the tunnel’s construction costs had been repaid. George Massey himself paid the last toll. In 1982, counterflow measures were introduced, using a reversible lane system to increase traffic flow during peak periods, which continues to operate today. Limited seismic upgrades were made in 2006, including the installation of a state of the art advanced earthquake warning system.
Who Was George Massey?
George Massey immigrated to Canada from Ireland in the early 1930’s. Upon arriving in Ladner, Massey felt that the ferry service connecting Delta to Richmond and Vancouver was inadequate and unable to address future population growth. For nearly 20 years, Massey put his own time, energy and money into making an improved south Fraser crossing a reality.
Massey’s plans for the tunnel were inspired by the construction of the Maastunnel in Rotterdam, Netherlands. At the time, no Canadian engineering firm had the expertise to take the project on. By 1956, with growing public support for a tunnel, Premier W.A.C. Bennett announced plans for construction of the Deas Island Tunnel.
George Massey passed away in 1964, and in 1967 the Deas Island Tunnel was renamed in his honour to celebrate his decades of hard work and dedication in improving Metro Vancouver’s infrastructure.
Building the Tunnel
Take a trip back in time and see what it took to build the George Massey Tunnel. You can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your Tunnel Times story to help us commemorate the Tunnel when it is decommissioned.