An important east-west connector at the north end of Vancouver will close for more than a year as the city begins construction on a major road and rail infrastructure project.
Powell Street will be closed between Hawks Avenue and Clark Drive from Monday until the summer of 2014 for the $50-million overpass project, which aims to improve the movement of goods through the city. The stretch of road, which runs parallel to the east-west rail corridor and is popular with motorists heading downtown from Burnaby and the North Shore, sees about 30,000 commuters daily.
The project will include the realignment of Powell Street around Raymur Avenue, moving it south to make room for a new rail track into Port Metro Vancouver.
"What that does is alleviate the pinch point that is at the port," said Jerry Dobrovolny, Vancouver's director of transportation.
The new Powell Street will be raised and pass over the Burrard Inlet rail line, similar to the Hastings Street overpass two blocks south. It will have four vehicular lanes, one separated cycling lane and expanded sidewalks. The separated cycling lane is expected to eventually connect to a bike route along Alexander Street.
While the construction area is largely industrial, a few business owners have voiced concerns about the impact the closing will have. Christine Morton, designer for Christine Lingerie at 821 Powell St., said while long-time clients will know the business is still open, the street closing kills the possibility of new clients dropping in after happening to drive by.
"I'm quite worried," she said. "I really don't know how the whole thing will unfold in the next few weeks. We'll get an idea when we see where they put up their signs and what they do." It is possible she will open a pop-up location elsewhere in the fall, Ms. Morton said.
The city has worked with business owners "for many months" to address their needs, Mr. Dobrovolny said.
"For one business, [vehicles] were coming in through one street and [delivery trucks] couldn't make the turn to get in to the property now that Powell [won't be] available," he said. "So we shifted a light pole so trucks could come in from the other side of their property." Local traffic and drivers headed directly to local businesses along Powell will still be permitted. Several transit routes will be affected, including the 209 and 210 Upper Lynn Valley/Vancouver and the 4 Powell/Downtown, which will detour along Hastings Street.
Port Metro Vancouver will contribute $19.5-million to the $50-million project, while Transport Canada will contribute $18.5-million.
TransLink and the City of Vancouver will each contribute $3.75-million and Canada Pacific the remaining $4.5-million.
The city has alerted commuters to the change for about a month and will be posting "dozens of notice boards" as far back as the Trans-Canada Highway so drivers have ample time to pick an alternate route, Mr. Dobrovolny said.
"It doesn't matter how many times you say it: until the morning of, some people don't really pay attention," he said.
"Whenever we do a major change like this, the sooner people are aware of it and make alternate changes, the easier it is on the road network. There is lots of capacity on the road network to shift those vehicles to other routes, but if they all come to where the cutoff is and then try to switch, there will be real congestion problems."