One of Vancouver’s major arterial routes will get a whole lot slower starting Monday, as the city fulfills a long-standing promise to calm Prior and Venables streets.
The year-long pilot project will see the road get reduced to just one lane of traffic in each direction between Gore and Raymur avenues, including during peak commute times.
The stretch adjacent to Strathcona Park between Raymur and Hawks avenues, meanwhile, will also see its speed limit reduced to 30 km/h.
Currently, the road is opened up to four lanes during high-volume periods, with parking allowed on the street roughly 85 per cent of the time. The pilot project will allow street parking 24 hours a day.
“As this pilot gets under way, drivers may expect possible delays on Prior/Venables during peak times and are encouraged to plan ahead,” the city said in a statement Friday.
The city added staff will be monitoring the impacts of traffic potentially shortcutting through side streets in the surrounding Strathcona, City Gate and Chinatown communities.
Vehicle speeds and commercial traffic will also be monitored.
Additional safety measures will be implemented — including temporary curb bulges, street lighting upgrades, and pavement markings — along with upgraded bus shelters and benches in the spring.
Council green-lit the initiative in October after pressure from local residents to follow through on years of promises dating back to the previous council to calm the street, which has been used as a main connector between East Vancouver and downtown for years.
The city had been exploring ways to maintain a connection after the removal of the viaducts, whose introduction in the 1970s led to increases in traffic on the narrow residential street.
Coun. Pete Fry, who has long supported efforts to calm the street, said the introduction of the pilot project hits close to home.
“I got involved in politics actually over safety issues on Prior Street, in particular after a good friend of mine got hit by a car crossing the road,” he said, adding his friend died from their injuries.
“I mean, anyone who has driven on Prior Street knows that it’s far too narrow, the sidewalks are far too narrow, there’s not enough setbacks.”
Despite the calming measures, the city is also moving ahead with plans to keep traffic moving once the viaducts are removed and the new St. Paul’s Hospital is built.
That plan includes the construction of an underpass meant to bypass a major traffic bottleneck at the Burrard Inlet Rail Line, which was reactivated by CN Rail in 2017.
Construction of the underpass will come at no cost to the city, staff confirmed, with the $125-million price tag likely being handed off to CN, the Port of Vancouver and the federal government.
The original staff report recommended transforming Prior Street into the main arterial route between East Vancouver and downtown, along with widened walking and cycling paths to allow different kinds of transportation to use the route.
The report suggested those upgrades and the city’s emissions targets would lower vehicle traffic in the area.
A community panel convened in April overwhelmingly rejected Prior, which is fronted by residential properties, and proposed an alternate route along National and Charles streets.
The National-Charles route preferred by residents would cost more than $400 million, according to the report, and did not have funding support from potential partners, which staff said could leave the city on the hook for the entire project.
In its report, the city noted the Prior-Venables option was opposed by the Strathcona Residents’ Association and Grandview-Woodland Area Council.
It also said the plan is supported by various stakeholders and businesses, including the Port of Vancouver, CN Rail, the British Columbia Trucking Association and TransLink.
According to the city, Prior Street currently moves an estimated 25,000 vehicles per day, the same number as six-lane Hastings Street to the north does.