Plan to scrap Vancouver viaducts sparks traffic concern

East Vancouver residents are gearing up for another potential battle against increased traffic due to the removal of two viaducts leading in and out of the downtown core.

Two years ago, city staff presented plans to council for the removal of the Georgia and Dunsmuir street viaducts, which residents in the nearby Strathcona neighbourhood protested due to concerns about increased traffic along Prior Street.

The plans were put on ice and staff were asked to research the impact on traffic and put together a draft plan for the viaducts' removal.

The issue has deep roots in Vancouver. The city wants to demolish what's left of a failed freeway system in Vancouver to make way for condo development, parks and bike paths.

The staff research is now complete and staff will report its findings to a Strathcona Residents Association meeting Thursday.

Residents concerned about increased traffic

But some residents say that while they support the notion of bringing down the viaducts, they're concerned that the move will bring more traffic to their residential neighbourhood.

"If the result is we have to continue hosting this highway through our neighbourhood we can't support it," said Elana Zysblat. "We won't."

Zysblat said she's concerned about the staff report because residents were promised to be consulted during the research, but weren't.

During an interview in Strathcona last weekend, Zysblat gestured at Prior Street, where cars whizzed by.

"This is not what our neighbourhood looked like in the late '60s, early '70s when the viaducts were put up. This was a quiet street. You can see that the houses are very close to the arterial," she said, referring to Prior Street.

The staff report is expected to be presented at city council in September. One of the biggest advantages of dismantling the viaducts, according to city staff, is that it will better reconnect the city's downtown neighbourhoods and free up unused land.

"It's very exciting," city planner Brian Jackson told CBC's On the Coast. "One hundred per cent of the traffic can be accommodated by the new road system that's being proposed."

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