By David Chen
In this election, many people have taken stances on both sides of this debate, but few have grounded reasons nor solutions to address some of the safety concerns regarding our infamous viaducts.
City council took a position that the viaducts are not seismically sound to withstand an earthquake. There are many accusations about why there is an agenda to remove them. It would be prudent to obtain a current seismic report from a different engineering firm to confirm or dispel the true ability of our viaducts to survive a seismic event.
If it is truly found that the viaducts are not sound, then we have to address the options. With new technology of a spray-on concrete-reinforcing compound, it is conceivable based on estimates that the cost to extend the life of the viaducts another 50 years would be in the $90-million range. Complete replacement would be $120 million, and complete demo and replacement of the roadway would be $360 million.
Beyond the spray-on concrete compound solution, it is possible to infill the area with commercial buildings that could be engineered to help stabilize the viaducts. The economics are pretty straightforward favouring the retention of the viaducts.
But there are nonfinancial issues to consider. On event days at Rogers Arena or at B.C. Place Stadium—when crowds are crossing the roads before an event and then the chaos of potentially inebriated fans leaving the stadiums—it will be a safety hazard for emergency vehicles to try to navigate the obstacles of people when St. Paul’s hospital has moved out of downtown. This is an obvious concern for patient care.
The next issue of concern is how the traffic will be routed through the area without disrupting parks and Produce Row, which currently exist there. There will be serious green-space and commercial-activity ramifications for routing traffic through the cheaper proposed options.
Lastly, there is the concern that the long-pledged Northeast False Creek Park, promised since 1990, will be decreased in size for the construction of more condos when the area can be realigned for development after the viaducts are out of the way. The loss of green space is a huge problem in the densification of our city.
There are a lot of reasons to retain our viaducts, and as a mayoral candidate, I am in favour of saving them.