$200-million Vancouver viaduct plan spurs serious debate
Like a lot of things in life, it’s all about the timing.
The same could possibly be said for the Georgia and Dunsmuir Street viaducts, which carry thousands of vehicles to and from the downtown core every day. Today, the City of Vancouver unveiled its $200-million plan to tear the structures down.
In June 2013, city council voted to move forward with the final phase of planning the removal of the viaducts, and today city planner Brian Jackson said the time is right for the teardown since the land under them is undeveloped.
“The reality is if we don’t do it now, it’s only going to become even more expensive and more difficult to do in the future as lands become developed,” Jackson said.
“There is a very narrow time for these large city building opportunities to take place.”
The plan for the viaducts would include: expanding Pacific Boulevard and a ramp that will connect Georgia Street to the waterfront; extending Creekside Park into Concord Pacific lands and moving the main flow of traffic from Prior Street to either Malkin or National. The timeline to have the project completed is five years.
Since the unanimous city council vote two years ago and the subsequent public outcry over possible increased congestion, the city conducted a traffic impact study to get a better understanding of what the viaduct removal would mean to Vancouver.
The city conducted 13 open houses and 38 stakeholders meetings and found the viaducts only carry six per cent of the traffic entering and leaving downtown, said Jerry Dobrovolny, general manager of engineering for the City of Vancouver.
“We’re confident in concluding that the system will work better. Not only will we still have access to the downtown but it will work better,” he says.
But the new plan means the price tag will increase substantially and some critics are concerned about where the money will come from.
“I’m concerned about the costs…” said Vancouver city councillor George Affleck.
“Two-hundred million is a lot of money. And the other issue I’ve always had is the time of the commute. Those two issues still are a big question mark for me.”
City staff said the $200-million cost will be covered by the redevelopment of the land and donations by developers. And while the city acknowledges the cost has almost doubled, they also said another reason to remove the viaducts is they could be vulnerable to collapsing onto the adjacent SkyTrain line.
Reinforcing the viaduct, which was built in 1972 to replace the original structure built in 1913, would cost roughly between $60 and $65 million.
A technical report will go to council in two weeks.
From the archives: Georgia Street Viaduct 1967 – City of Vancouver engineers work on the Georgia Street Viaduct in 1967. The first viaduct was built between 1913 and 1915 before it was replaced in 1972 by the current Georgia viaduct.