Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Vancouver unveils plan to replace viaducts

with 9 comments

The Sun headline is a bit longer but I really do not like the term ‘super road’. In fact what the City Engineer is now proposing is a new network with several significant additions. Sadly the story does not come with a map or a link to the presentation council heard yesterday.

new road network proposed to replace the viaducts

The new road network proposed to replace the viaducts – taken from the staff presentation to Council

The important point – and the one that needs to be reiterated for all those people who commented here (and elsewhere) about the impact on traffic – is that the viaducts are not necessary.

“The viaducts were built at a time and in a context that made sense,” said Kevin McNaney, the city’s assistant director of planning. “They crossed industrial land, which no longer exists, they were built to be part of a freeway system, which was never built, and they were built to a capacity that we can never achieve. So the question for council over the coming months and this coming fall, is: ‘Is there a better, more coherent vision, and how can we get there?’”

The viaducts were built in the 1960s to carry as many as 1,800 vehicles an hour. But less than half that number use the viaducts now and that amount is declining as improvements to public transportation are made, Dobrovolny said.

Which is pretty much the stance I took from the start. Indeed what is really different is that the “viaducts could be demolished almost immediately, paving the way for new housing and a neighbourhood park system, if the plan is approved by council this fall”. That is much better than the original idea that it could take at least 15 years, and is what I was calling for.

Improved Pedestrian and Bicycle Connections

Improved Pedestrian and Bicycle Connections

To summarize what is now being proposed

  • a new road from Pacific Boulevard that connects to Prior, Main and Quebec Streets.
  • Georgia Street extended to Pacific down a 5% grade
  • Westbound vehicle access to Dunsmuir ended
  • bicycle and pedestrian bridge to connect from a planned park to Dunsmuir Street above.
  • bicycle and pedestrian mall on the west side of a future park linking Carrall Street with False Creek

(This summary has been adapted from the text of the Sun report as the city presentation is a pdf file)

The presentation also discusses how land use could change as this frees up the land currently covered by the viaducts for development. This “could generate 850,000 square feet of housing and retail space and could help pay for the cost of demolishing the viaducts”

I think the most encouraging thing in the presentation is the amount of public support for this proposal. There is even bipartisan support on Council.

Subsequently the Mayor has been trying to dampen everyone’s enthusiasm and suggest that it all needs to take much longer.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 25, 2012 at 8:40 am

9 Responses

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  1. Love this news. Interesting presentation. The viaducts have got to go. The sooner the better. But, doesn’t anyone else think the amount of parkland in the draft plan is overkill?

    I realise that in surveys “more parks” always scores high on the list of demands. After all, if someone asks in a survey, would you like more parks, who is going to say no to that? But that doesn’t mean it is good urbanism. It strikes me as a bit lazy actually. Just plant grass and a few trees. Planning finished!

    Again, this proposal is much better than the status quo. Thumbs up! But come on. I know green-space is inoffensive, and therefore politically more palatable. Something similar to this won that contest a few months back. But how about some other ideas? Or is this a battle to have after the viaducts have been torn down?

    Alex - (@Alex_AniPac)

    July 25, 2012 at 5:24 pm

  2. Alex, the plan you are looking at now was prepared by a city appointed ad hoc committee and is based on the ideas generated through the Re:Connect comptetition. Presumably, it is an amalgam of all the best and most achievable ideas.

    Adam Fitch

    July 25, 2012 at 7:45 pm

  3. Stephen, here are two questions that I have thought of from this concept that I have not seen the answer to:

    1. What will happen to the segment of Expo Boulevard to the north of BC Place, under the Terry Fox plaza etc.? I believe that the concept leaves this road in place, but what could happen to it? The large traffic capaacity would no longer be needed. How could the environment there be improved, especially for pedestrians and cyclists?

    2. If Pacific Boulevard to the south of BC Place is to be converted from one-way (eastbound) to two-way, as proposed, how will the undeveloped area to the west of BC Place, and the Cambie Streeet Bridge ramps, be configured? There is lots of potential there. I do not know if that has been addressed, explored, or revealed.

    Adam Fitch

    July 25, 2012 at 7:52 pm

  4. Adam – I suggest you address your questions to Gerry Dobrovolny and let us know what he says

    Stephen Rees

    July 25, 2012 at 7:58 pm

  5. “Super Road”… Never heard that term used anywhere. It could be used to describe Pacific Boulevard as it existed from 1983 until the Expo Lands were developed with condos. How long before the Super Road needs to be de-superized.

    2002 Pacific Boulevard plan… Not exactly a rush to implement

    Looking for previous entries on Pacific Blvd, found this on Oct 30 2008

    “And what happened to the downtown streetcar – is the NPA dropping that?”

    I think we know how that turned out. Nice new track west of Cambie, No track east of Cambie. Not even $100,000 to keep Don Bellamy and the other octogenarian street railwaymen’s summer heritage service.


    July 25, 2012 at 11:50 pm

  6. @Adam – Re:Connect ! Yes! That was the “contest” I was thinking of. Basically, thinking back, I didn’t like any of the final ideas in that. The nature of having a contest itself means that people are going to submit over-the-top ideas (the Highline copies), or massive central park like open spaces. Just traditional, good urbanism isn’t sexy enough for whatever reason.

    Alex - (@Alex_AniPac)

    July 25, 2012 at 11:58 pm

  7. @ Adam –
    I don’t think Pacific Blvd directly south of BC Place will be come 2-way.

    I think the plan is to have all westbound traffic on the “new” Pacific Blvd turn right up the Georgia St. ramp or turn right onto Griffiths Way to access Expo Blvd (and Costco). Eastbound Pacific Blvd traffic will be prohibited from turning left onto Griffiths Way.

    See map here of the proposed intersection showing the routings
    (part of the Rogers Arena rental apartment towers application):

    The alternate access to Expo Blvd (and Costco) would be the new intersection just north of the Concord Display Centre ojn the render map shown above (the eastern “tip” of the new triangular block east of Rogers Arena). The width of the roadway suggests double right turn lanes.
    I think the road system west of BC Place will remain the same.

    Ultimately, the “new” Pacific Blvd is very similar to the Expo 86 era Pacific Boulevard.


    July 29, 2012 at 8:35 pm

  8. ON second thought – eastbound Pacific Blvd traffic may be able to turn left into Griffiths way – just noticed a dotted line on the map (the “island” may just be a painted island rather than raised concrete curb).


    July 29, 2012 at 8:38 pm

  9. I ‘thing’ a lot about this one too, Stephen. These are the elements in my analysis.

    1. No Super Road. It’s a conservation thing. We should use the black top we have and make adjustments within its R.O.W.

    2. Towers to a point. I have no qualms with the proposal to build towers around the hockey arena if that is what the owners envision. I have no problem with the other towers that have been part of this last corner of False Creek Post Expo.

    3. Too much open space. However, I am not too keen with the plans to create all that park space. Principally because this is just the old “towers in the park” urbanism that we know does not work, and does nothing for the existing neighbourhood.

    4. A mixed neighbourhood extending the Chinatown and Old Town to the shores of False Creek. I think that the platting should extend the existing block scale, and the historic building typologies into the area and as far as the shores of False Creek.

    That would make the redevelopment of the creek into a matrix that truly reflected all the aspects of our multi-facetted community.

    lewis n. villegas

    July 31, 2012 at 10:05 pm

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