Vancouver City Council approved the removal of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts.
Council voted 5-4 in favour of the removal plan, which comes with amendments from Tuesday night’s meeting.
The plan for the viaducts includes 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.
“I feel very good,” said Councillor Geoff Meggs. “I think council and its majority made a really positive decision for the future of the city. This is an area that’s been neglected. It’s been waiting a long time to find its future. Its future should not include the viaducts. It should be a bigger park, it should be better connections, it should be a better traffic arrangement than we have now.”
Councillor George Affleck expressed concerns.
“I think that we have the cost of 200 to 300 million dollars was a real challenge for me. I think that we don’t know where that’s going to come from. It wasn’t clear in the report….It’s just too high for the people of Vancouver.”
While the city is ready to move ahead with the removal of the viaducts, B.C. transportation minister Todd Stone said it’s not a done deal.
Stone pointed out that PavCo–the Crown corporation owned by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure–owns land around the viaducts.
“When you look at the plan, part of the realignment of the new roads would cross over land that is owned by Pavco. It would be a good idea, in my mind, for the City of Vancouver to reach out to the Pavilion Corporation, reach out to the province, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Transportation and have a discussion and a dialogue with us so that our concerns that we have and that PavCo has are very much part of the discussion moving forward.”
On Wednesday evening, Kevin Quinlan, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff, said city staffers have actually met with PavCo eight times since April of last year to discuss the proposal.
WATCH: Debate over viaduct plan
City staff estimate that land freed up by the removal of the viaducts would be worth more than $100 million. Most of that land is owned by Concord Pacific.
Last week, Charles Gauthier of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association spoke in favour of the plan, noting that they were “pleasantly surprised” to find the viaducts only handle about 10 per cent of the traffic that comes into the downtown core.
“We thought that number would be considerably higher,” Gauthier told Council.
So where will that traffic go? Council was told by Concord Pacific that while a City Staff report suggests commute times into downtown might increase by three to four minutes, traffic could be improved thanks to a redesigned Pacific Boulevard that will be eight lanes wide in places.
-With files from Paula Baker, Ted Chernecki and Catherine Urquhart