Wheels have been set in motion for the removal of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts.
On Tuesday (September 6), the City of Vancouver released a detailed proposal for the future of the two giant strips of elevated concrete that run from the east end of downtown, along False Creek into the Strathcona neighbourhood of East Vancouver.
There were a number of ideas floated and discussed over the past several years. Among them, it was suggested the viaducts could remain where they stand but be closed to vehicle traffic and converted into a parks with gardens.
But the option the city is pursuing is to tear the viaducts down.
“The City is proposing a new at-grade Pacific Boulevard and Georgia Street ramp,” reads a website detailing the plan. “Studies have confirmed that this new street network can handle 100% of the current and future traffic volume and will be better adapted to accommodating improved options for getting around the area. This means improved connections for a variety of transportation modes including walking, cycling, transit, goods movement and driving.”
After the viaducts have been removed, the downtown section of Georgia Street beginning at Expo Boulvard would continue in the form of a ramp that runs between B.C. Place Stadium and Rogers Arena, down to Griffith’s Way. Dunsmuir would similarly connect via a “gentle” slope down to a new section of Pacific Boulevard. It would be closed to vehicle traffic.
That new section of Pacific would accommodate two-way traffic and continue east into Strathcona and link up with both Prior Street and Quebec Street.
A new neighbourhood with new residential towers would take shape on the east edge of Pacific, bordered by the two stadiums to the northwest and False Creek to its south. That would fill half the large vacant lot that presently occupies the north edge of False Creek. The other half of that space would be filled by a waterfront park. All of that would come with a new section of the Seawall running along the north edge of False Creek. Finally, the south end of Carrall Street would be slightly extended south to serve as a new transportation corridor.
The latest estimate for the costs of removing the viaducts is $200 million.
Anticipating concerns over traffic congestion, the city released a statement that claims the viaducts simply aren’t needed.
“The viaducts were originally designed and constructed as part of a freeway network that was never completed,” that reads. “It was intended to carry up to 1,800 vehicles per lane per hour; today they carry only 750 vehicles per lane per hour during rush hour. Over the last 20 years, vehicle traffic into the downtown has declined by 20 per cent, while at the same time the city has grown with more jobs, more residents and more transportation trips overall.”
Shortly after those plans were released online, Mayor Gregor Robertson took to social media to promote the proposal for the viaducts’ removal.
“In two weeks, council will debate and vote on whether to take down the viaducts,” he wrote on Facebook. “We are at the point where a decision needs to be made and it is clear that this is a once-in-a-generation city building opportunity. Keeping the viaducts would cost tens of millions of dollars, put our downtown at risk during an earthquake, and miss out on an opportunity for more park space and affordable housing.”
Given that the mayor’s Vision Vancouver party holds a majority of seats on city council, it would likely take considerable public opposition to the plan that’s been proposed for it to be significantly altered before eventual implementation.
The city has initiated a lengthy phase of public consultation. Feedback can be submitted online via a form. A Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) at reddit.com/r/vancouver is planned for October 13 at noon. And the first in a series of public meetings and information sessions is scheduled for Wednesday, October 14, beginning at 6 p.m. at Science World.