Donald Luxton, a heritage advocate who correctly predicted that the cost of adding bike lanes to the Burrard Bridge would be much higher than anticipated by the city, says the public has been “misled” about the proposal.
Last August, Luxton told the Georgia Straight that the bill for widening the sidewalks of the art-deco bridge would be $50 million, and could go “even higher”. Now, according to estimates presented to council by city staff on April 28, the cost would be $57 million.
“It’s not a case of vindication,” Luxton said by phone recently. “It’s a case of pointing out obvious facts rather than hide them. These were obvious facts that were not being discussed, and the public was being misled.”
David Rawsthorne, then the city’s greenways and neighbourhood transportation engineer, said last year he had “no idea” where Luxton got the figure of $50 million. Rawsthorne, now in engineering services but no longer overseeing the file, did not return a phone call from the Straight.
“I hardly think it was rocket science,” Luxton said. “In fact, when I publicly stated what we thought the costs were going to be, I knew I’d erred on the conservative side, because I didn’t want to sound like a crackpot.”
After regaining a majority on city council in November 2005, Non-
Partisan Association councillors voted to cancel a trial program, spearheaded by former COPE councillor Fred Bass, that would have removed two of the six lanes of bridge traffic and turned them over to cyclists and in-line skaters. The $1-million, six-month trial was to begin in April 2006 and if successful be extended to 12 months, or else cancelled in favour of sidewalk widening that was then estimated to cost $14.5 million (in 2002 dollars).
At $57 million in 2008 dollars, Luxton said costs could rise to “$60 million in 2010 dollars and $70 million after that”.
“I think for their own reasons they have decided to undertake planning by exhaustion,” Luxton said. “They are trying to wear everybody down, but I think it has backfired on them now. Once people understand the realistic costs of what they are doing, I think they will also begin to question their basic assumptions, such as their [city staff’s] assumptions that closing [traffic] lanes will lead to gridlock, which flies in the face of logic.”
In the past, Luxton and Bass have argued that there is capacity for single-occupancy vehicles on the Granville Bridge.
Brent Granby, president of the West End Residents Association, told the Straight he is “disappointed with the way the whole project has gone”.
“I have to consult with other people on this, but my gut feeling is that we really need to revisit the lane-reallocation option,” he said.
NPA councillor Suzanne Anton told the Straight she found it “very disappointing” that the estimated cost is now so high. She said she is taking city staff’s advice that any kind of lane reallocation, which is supported by Vision Vancouver councillors and COPE councillor David Cadman, will not work. In an April 29 NPA media release, Coun. Kim Capri echoed opposition to revisiting lane reallocation: “Their plan simply wouldn’t be accepted by the public and staff have told them it just doesn’t make any sense.”
When asked if she is scared to reverse her 2005 vote against the Burrard Bridge bike-lane trial, Anton would only say: “I didn’t make it a big part of my campaign, but the mayor campaigned against it, of course.”
Luxton said that the NPA may have “done us a favour”.
“We now have to sit back and look at changed priorities,” Luxton said. “In the last three years, we have become more aware about things like greenhouse-gas emissions, the need to limit oil consumption, and all those things that point to starting to rely less on cars rather than more on cars.”