Skip to main content

Vehicles pass underneath the Georgia Street Viaduct (left) adjacent to the Dunsmuir Street Viaduct(right) in Vancouver, British Columbia, January 08, 2014.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

City staff will recommend this fall that Vancouver's two viaducts – remnants of a commuter route between the downtown and the east – should be taken down.

So far, the reaction has been more positive than when the idea was first proposed three years ago.

"Engineers have found no new arguments against replacing them," said Councillor Geoff Meggs, a proponent of the idea because it would free up city land under the viaducts to be used for parks and low-cost housing. "A firm decision has to be made, and they will be recommending replacement."

Story continues below advertisement

The viaducts, built in the 1960s, are the vestigial parts of a once-grand plan to build a freeway through downtown Vancouver and would need $50-million to $60-million in upgrades to make them earthquake-proof. Removing them would only add a couple of minutes to commute times, according to city staff.

The official report isn't expected at council for a vote until the end of September. But planners and engineers have been visiting interested groups since late June, showing them the information they have gathered about the impact on traffic patterns, the cost of keeping the viaducts and the proposed east-connecting commuter route that would create a new link between Georgia Street and Expo Boulevard.

The first phase of the plan would see the removal of the eastern end of the viaducts, which cross over Main Street and then slope down to Prior Street. The viaducts would then come down at Main, freeing up two city-owned blocks.

Business and neighbourhood groups that had been alarmed

by parts of the plan say they

are hearing more positive

things now.

Story continues below advertisement

"Barring any kind of major issues, this has a lot more appeal," said Charles Gauthier, executive director of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, which was briefed on the project last week. "It wasn't a showstopper the same way it was three years ago."

City engineers have calculated that travel times would increase by one to three minutes. The viaducts account for just 15 per cent of the commuter traffic to and from the east and carry less than half the number of vehicles they were designed for.

One advantage of the new plan is that Georgia Street, one of the downtown's big processional routes, would run from Stanley Park all the way down to False Creek, instead of veering off onto a viaduct as it does now.

Mr. Gauthier said there are still a lot of details to be worked out. One is how to allow commuters arriving from the east to turn left from Georgia so they can go west and south. Another is whether the city's proposed "bike bridge," meant to help cyclists get up the steep escarpment on the east side of the downtown, is workable. (At the moment, cyclists have a route across one of the viaducts that avoids that climb.)

The Strathcona Residents' Association is cautiously hopeful. The neighbourhood group has supported the removal of the viaducts, said chair Elana Zysblat, because it would allow neighbourhoods such as Strathcona, Chinatown, Crosstown and False Creek to be more connected.

But residents mounted protests two years ago because it appeared that commuter traffic would still be routed along Prior Street, a once-quiet residential street that became a mini-highway when the viaducts were built.

Story continues below advertisement

This time, said Ms. Zysblat, they are hearing two different things. One is that engineers have been instructed to look for an alternative route. The second is that St. Paul's Hospital will be moving nearby and it will likely require a better access street than Prior.

"I feel there's something different," Ms. Zyzblat said. "When staff say they have been instructed, I think our protest has been heard."

Mr. Meggs said the important question is whether replacing the viaducts will create a better city. Other issues – the best use for the freed-up city land, whether there should be a bike bridge – can be debated and decided after the essential issue is settled, he said.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter