Image: Ted McGrath / Flickr

 

After hearing from 65 speakers over two meetings, Vancouver city councillors have voted to tear down the viaducts connecting downtown to False Creek.

The $300 million project, which was initially estimated at $70 million, will involve demolishing the viaducts that were built in 1972 and replacing them with a new six-lane road configuration that merges Expo and Pacific boulevards.

They will also build 2,500 affordable and market value housing units, a 13-acre expansion of Creekside Park, a bike bridge on Dunsmuir that connects to the escarpment, and a five per cent grade ramp at the end of Georgia Street between Rogers Arena and B.C. Place that leads to Pacific Boulevard.

As well, contaminated soil that still remains in False Creek from the area’s heavily industrial past must be taken care of.

“With the housing crisis that we face, it seems crazy that we would spend tens of millions of dollars to keep an elevated freeway in place on top of acres of city land rather than focus on housing for residents who need it,” Mayor Gregor Robertson said in the council meeting.

“I don’t think we would build anything like the viaducts if we were given that option from scratch today and I think we’re ready to make the change that makes sense for the neighbourhoods.”

Four city councillors voted against the plan to demolish the viaducts for various reasons that were mostly cost-related. Five councillors approved it, while Councillors Reimer and Jang were absent from the meeting.

“Is this the best way to spend $200 to $300 million of people’s money in this city? We don’t really know where this money is coming from,” said City Councillor George Affleck, who voted against the proposal.

Image: Ted McGrath / Flickr

SEE ALSO: Vancouver viaducts removal cost climbs to $200 million

According to city planners, the viaducts are seismically unsafe and only half of its 1,800 vehicle-per-lane-per-hour capacity is being utilized. Half of the viaduct’s traffic comes from the eastern half of the city.

Citizens who were both opposed to and in favour of the removal of the viaducts voiced their opinions and worries. Some of them were concerned with Cottonwood Gardens, a community garden that will be damaged by the widening of Malkin Road, and how traffic flow will be affected. Many Cottonwood supporters urged councillors to route east-west arterial traffic to National Avenue instead.

An east-west arterial was not decided on at the meeting, but the councillors voted not to make special moves to preserve the gardens.

Image: Ted McGrath / Flickr

SEE ALSO: Opinion: Vancouver viaducts demolition to be the worst transportation policy in city's history

Many speakers of African descent supported the removal of the viaducts contingent on the preservation and restoration of parts of Hogan’s Alley, a historically black populated area of Vancouver that was torn down when the viaducts were erected.

Now that the plan to tear down the viaducts has been approved, it will likely go forward in 2018 with the implementation of a two-phase plan that will take place over a period of five years. Demolishing the viaducts and building the roads are expected to take two years alone. Phase one is estimated to cost $200 million while phase two is estimated at $100 million.

The source of funding for the project is undecided, but could come from a combination of capital reserves and contributions from developers. A funding strategy will be developed by city planners over the next 18 months.

Another option that’s being considered is the construction of a streetcar system.

The plan is expected to benefit cyclists. After construction, Carrall Street, the cycling facility on the new Dunsmuir connection to downtown, will be able to accommodate 10,000 cyclists per day.

Image: City of Vancouver

Image: City of Vancouver

Many new parks and green spaces will be added in the Northeast False Creek area, including a 2.7 acre park at the Plaza of Nations site. Nearly 14 acres of park space would also be added in the new Creekside Park Extension, Carrall Street conversion to park, and Dunsmuir elevated park.

Image: City of Vancouver

Image: City of Vancouver

Should the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts be demolished?
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City planner believes the viaducts should be demolished before new development makes it impossible. (City of Vancouver)

City planner recommends demolition of Vancouver viaducts

“There is a very narrow time for these large city-building opportunities to take place. It’s the right time for this to happen,” said Brian Jackson, as he and the heads of engineering and parks made the case for why the city should spend $200-million to take down the two viaducts and create a big new city park and hundreds of units of housing with the newly available space.

Mr. Jackson said taking down the viaducts will help reconnect neighbourhoods.

“This is one of the most exciting things this city has done in decades.”

The idea of demolishing the Dunsmuir and Georgia viaducts, which constitute one of about a half-dozen commuter routes between the downtown and east Vancouver, first emerged in 2011. It was an idea strongly promoted by now-deceased councillor Jim Green.

After four years of debate and studies, staff are now taking forward a report to council later this month recommending the demolition. They say it could be done within five years if council approves the report.

It will cost about $95-million to remove the viaducts. The remaining $105-million will be used to reconfigure the roads at ground level, as well as create a new five-hectare park and an alternative bike bridge to replace the bike lane that exists now on the Dunsmuir viaduct.

Staff say the $200-million will be covered through fees on development in the area.

 

Concord Pacific, which is waiting to develop the last parcels of former Expo 86 land it owns on the western end of the viaducts, will get some extra density as a result. Mr. Jackson said the city may sell some of its land around the viaducts.

In all, the viaduct-free area could see 2,500 units of new housing from Concord and potentially another 1,000 on the two city blocks east of Main, with a major park in between those clusters.

Mr. Jackson said the city is aiming to create affordable housing on both the Concord and city land, but didn’t have target numbers for how much would be below-market altogether.

Engineers say it will only take about one to three minutes longer for motor vehicles to commute even in the busiest times through that area, which is a filled-in part of False Creek that sits below the escarpments of the downtown on the west and Clark Drive on the east.

The total number of lanes will go from nine (five on the viaducts and four on the two boulevards underneath) to six, with Expo and Pacific boulevards expanded to three lanes apiece. They will then connect to downtown through a new extension of Georgia Street that brings it down to sea level.

“This better meets the needs of commuter traffic,” said the city’s acting manager of engineering, Jerry Dobrovolny. He said only 6 per cent of commuter traffic to downtown is on the viaducts and that emergency vehicles won’t use them because of the risk of getting stuck with no possibility of exit in a traffic jam.

The city is also looking at reconfiguring other roads east of Main to route commuters away from a street that borders residential Strathcona and onto one that runs through a more industrial area, said Mr. Dobrovolny.

That will cost about another $100-million, although the federal government is expected to contribute substantially to the most expensive piece of that, which is building a bridge to go over the rail tracks.

That new route, potentially along Malkin Avenue, would also better serve the new St. Paul’s Hospital that is planned for the area.

Political opponents and resident groups say there is still a lot of information missing to help them decide if this is a good deal for the whole city.

“I think there’s support overall for the concepts but you have to weigh that against the impact on our prosperity as a city,” said Non-Partisan Association Councillor George Affleck.

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Screenshot/YouTube

 

Marvel’s Deadpool trailer was released August 4, and it looks just as cool as you imagined.

Vancouver’s own Ryan Reynolds plays Wade Wilson, who was diagnosed with cancer and then subjected to various experiments leading him to become a mercenary.

Remember when the Georgia Viaduct was closed down for three days while Deadpool was filming? Well, you’ll see a lot of it in this trailer.

The cast also includes Morena Baccarin (Stargate SG-1), Ed Skrein (Game of Thrones), and T.J. Miller (Silicon Valley).

This trailer is NSFW - there’s a swear or two thrown in and a bit of violence. Watch below:

 

 
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Lauren Sundstrom Lauren is an Editorial Assistant at Vancity Buzz and is a graduate of BCIT's Broadcast and Online Journalism program. She loves reporting on breaking news, lifestyle and social justice issues. She may or may not have a shoe addiction.
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The Future of Vancouver’s viaducts

 

The City is reviewing the future of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts as part of a strategic planning review of Northeast False Creek.

For a number of years, we have been exploring opportunities to replace the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts with a mostly at-grade street network. This change would allow for a larger Creekside Park, improved walking, cycling, transit, and driving options, and a new neighbourhood. In September 2015, Council will consider whether to move ahead with removing the viaducts.

History of the viaducts

The viaducts – two elevated roadways connecting Downtown Vancouver to the surrounding neighbourhoods – are remnants of a 1960s freeway plan that was never fully completed. The viaducts now act as a barrier, cutting off the surrounding neighbourhoods from the False Creek Waterfront, as well as each other.

Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts

2012 rendering for Northeast False Creek without the viaducts

Developing a bold, city-shaping concept plan

City planning and engineering staff worked with urban designers, and transportation and structural engineering consultants to reimagine the viaducts land. The concept proposes to:

  • Remove the viaduct structures
  • Reconfigure the road network at ground level
  • Allow for more park land and mixed-use development
  • Maintain key transportation routes to and from downtown for people and goods

Read about this project in-depth

Viaduct essentials: What you need to know

Tell us what you think!

We want to know your thoughts on the future of Vancouver’s viaducts. Here's your chance to tell us what you think. Your responses will be submitted anonymously, and the information will be used to guide planning in the area.

 
 

Progress on this initiative

Advancing towards a decision on the Future of Vancouver’s viaducts

June 24, 2015 - Based on the proposed concept for the area Council voted unanimously in 2013 to move forward with the final phase of pre-planning work for removal of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts.

Some concerns were expressed by stakeholders, which included the accuracy of the transportation analysis, the length of construction and associated traffic impacts and a commitment on the future of Malkin Avenue as an arterial connection. Council directed staff to undertake a more in-depth analysis of transportation and financial impacts of the viaducts replacement.

Over the past two years (2013-2015) City staff has been busy conducting this analysis. In summer 2015 City staff will be presenting the results of these studies to inform Council’s consideration of the future of the viaducts this September.

Come learn more about Vancouver’s viaducts at the following events

  • Thursday, June 25, 1:00pm – 7:00pm, at Pop-up City Hall, Seawall, 1800 Spyglass Place
  • Saturday, June 27, 5:00pm – 10:00pm, at Farmers' Night Market Plaza of Nations, 750 Pacific Blvd
  • Tuesday, June 30, 7:00pm – 11:00pm, at Greenest City Celebration, Roundhouse Community Centre
  • Thursday, July 9, 2:00pm – 6:00pm, at Pop-up City Hall, Roundhouse Community Centre
  • Saturday, July 11, 7:00pm – 11:00pm, at Farmers' Night Market, Plaza of Nations, 750 Pacific Blvd
  • More to come – check back for updates in September

Click to expand the timeline:

Georgia Dunsmuir Viaduct timeline June 2015

 

 

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More updates on this initiative – 2013

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