City to move forward with removing Georgia, Dunsmuir viaducts

October 27, 2015 | Better Transit

City Council has voted to proceed with plans to remove the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts, following a four-year process that involved extensive studies of traffic patterns, seismic safety, park configuration and financing options. The removal of the viaducts will eliminate the need for up to $65 million in seismic upgrades, reconnect Chinatown and Strathcona with False Creek, and provide an opportunity for a 13 acre park in False Creek.
“This is a once-in-a-generation city building opportunity,” said Mayor Robertson. “There is no decision at the city that has been more scrutinized, studied, deliberated or consulted on than whether or not to remove the viaducts, and after four years, it is time to move forward.
“There are clear benefits for our city from the removal of the viaducts, whether it’s reconnecting Chinatown to False Creek, avoiding tens of millions of dollars in seismic upgrades, or building new affordable housing and bigger parks.
“Vancouver has benefited from forward-looking decisions in the past, whether it was densifying the West End, building the seawall or preserving Stanley Park. With this decision to remove the viaducts, we can build on those successes and create a better city for our residents, now and in the future.”
The Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts were built in 1971 as part of a larger freeway network that was never completed due to community opposition. Currently, the viaducts carry just 6% of all trips to and from downtown Vancouver.
Tonight's decision directs staff to initiate detailed planning and land negotiations on the basis of the viaducts being removed. Staff will report back to Council within 18 months or less on a revised public benefits strategy as well as an update on negotiations.
The viaducts will be replaced with a new two-way ramp connecting Georgia Street with a new two-way, six lane Pacific Boulevard. By being at ground level, the new road network will be more resilient and reliable for goods movement and emergency service vehicles going in and out of the downtown core. Traffic analysis shows that there is an expected 10% decrease of traffic along Prior Street in Strathcona.
The removal of the viaducts will free up two city-owned blocks of land located immediately east and west of Main Street between Prior and Union. These blocks are covered by the Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan, which provides an opportunity for a mix of market and non-market housing.
Since June 2013, there have been 38 stakeholder meetings and 13 open houses on the viaducts.
Council heard from more than 50 speakers over the course of two days. Notable supporters of the removal of the viaducts include the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association and the Vancouver Public Space Network.
Following the completion of detailed planning and design work, and the necessary agreements to advance removal of the viaducts, construction could start in late 2017, and be complete by 2020.