Vancouver’s downtown viaducts continue to take small steps toward demolition, a plan that would completely alter the traffic patterns toward downtown’s east side.
The latest effort toward removing the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts comes as the city announced formal plans to demolish the viaducts in a $200 million effort, which includes completely retooling the traffic patterns on the False Creek area of downtown near the stadiums.
To remove the viaducts, though, means the city needs to have a plan for flowing traffic in the area. That plan currently involved using surface streets—no new viaducts—and upgrading or potentially creating new roadway to handle the added loads. New bike routes would also be worked into the project.
The elevated concrete viaducts were built in the 1960s, part of a grand freeway plan for Vancouver that never materialized. The idea of removing the viaducts first became official in 2013, but concerns over the new traffic patterns led the city to study the effort for two years. The city now says fewer and fewer trips into downtown use the viaducts, so tearing out what the city calls seismically vulnerable roadways wouldn’t pose a major detriment to the congestion in the city.
Strengthening the viaducts enough for them to handle a major earthquake would cost $65 million.
Plus, they city says, with the removal of the viaducts, Vancouver can add 13 acres of waterfront park and sell city-owned property to developers to help recoup some of the cost of the project. The city also says that removing the viaducts helps connect neighborhoods east of the waterfront to the downtown area and the new park space.
As the city still works to secure funding for the project, final approval on the project could come as soon as this month.
The five-year project has the city building a new thoroughfare to handle the viaduct traffic before the removal of the structures takes place. The new park would also take priority in the planning and construction phase.
Tim Newcomb is Engineering News-Record’s Pacific Northwest contributor. He writes for Popular Mechanics, Sports Illustrated and more. You can follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb or visit his website here.