Vancouver staff say removal of viaducts could lead to increased park space, housing
Increased park space and opportunities for affordable housing were among the possibilities outlined as part of a city study on the potential removal of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts today (July 24).
While council won’t vote on the outcome of the viaducts until this fall, councillors heard a presentation on what staff identified as the most viable option for the area if the structures are removed.
That option would include new two-way, four-lane ramps linking Georgia Street to Pacific Boulevard.
According to a presentation delivered by transportation director Jerry Dobrovolny and assistant director of planning Kevin McNaney, the viaducts were designed to carry 1,800 vehicles per lane an hour. Currently, the routes carry at their peak 750 vehicles per lane per hour.
“It’s certainly not performing the function that was originally envisioned,” said Dobrovolny.
According to McNaney, the new roadway would see around 850,000 square feet of potential housing development open up in Strathcona.
Mayor Gregor Robertson called the future of the viaducts and the city’s Eastern Core “a big, big decision for Vancouver,” and said there are a number of outstanding issues he wants to see addressed before the city moves forward on the issue.
“The litmus test for me is whether the changes here will benefit the citizens who live and work in the area, and better connect the city as a whole,” he said.
“We have historic neighbourhoods directly impacted by the viaducts and the lack of connectivity through the Eastern Core, that contrasted with an opportunity for more park space, more affordable housing, more vibrant connected streets. I think that the way we do this is really critical.”
Among five issues that Robertson said he’d like to see come back to council in the fall are traffic improvements to Prior Street, fast-tracking the Malkin Street connection to divert traffic onto designated routes, identifying options for the phased or partial removal of the viaducts, and ensuring that the flow of commercial goods is a priority.
“I’m not prepared to say we’re there yet, but I think we’re getting closer and there are a number of pieces still on the table to be addressed,” said Robertson.
Vision Vancouver councillor Kerry Jang said he wants to see more details come forward in the fall on the potential types of housing that could be built, as well as a definition of the range of affordability.
City staff said key issues that require more work include alignment with other city processes, such as the Downtown Eastside Local Area Planning Process, and the long-term Transportation 2040 plan.
Dobrovolny also acknowledged the community concerns raised around the potential for increased traffic along Prior Street.
The transportation director said according to the city’s study, it’s anticipated traffic would actually decrease with a new roadway.
“The Strathcona residents have legitimate concerns about traffic through their neighbourhood,” Dobrovolny told reporters. “We’ve been working with them over the years, and we continue to work with them on this project.”
Staff are expected to come back to council in the fall with further details and options for the area.