In a situation few cities find themselves in, Vancouver, B.C., is exploring how to best use the extra vehicle capacity on the 1954-opened Granville Bridge. And while pedestrian and bicycle traffic offer the ultimate answer, getting to a design that finalizes the result remains a work in progress. 

Granville Bridge, an eight-lane crossing over False Creek into downtown, was originally designed to connect to high-speed, high-volume freeways that were never built in Vancouver. Carrying slightly more traffic than nearby Burrard Bridge, but with twice as many vehicle lanes, even when all lanes leading to the bridge are full, traffic on the bridge itself remains relatively light. 

While seismic upgrades to the concrete and steel bridge are ongoing now, the City of Vancouver is also working through designs that better use the capacity on the bridge, opening up ideas to embrace “new walking, rolling and cycling paths across the Granville Bridge.” 

Meant to accommodate the growing number of people near the area, the city is working through the public engagement phase to get feedback on the six design options that have made it this far in the proposal process. The city expects to finalize a design for the crossing in 2020 and start construction on the project in 2021, ranging anywhere from $20 million to $55 million in project cost, depending on the chosen design. 

As part of all designs, the plan converts traffic lanes to cycling and walking lanes. Built with a freeway style in mind, currently the Granville Bridge sees fewer pedestrian crossings than other False Creek crossings. Creating a more pedestrian-friendly environment will help increase its multi-modal use, the city says, and connect the 18,000 residents and 17,000 jobs within a five-minute walk from the bridge and the 90,000 residents and 120,000 jobs within a five-minute cycle from the bridge. 

Taking design cues from everywhere from the Brooklyn Bridge in New York to the Tilikum Crossing in Portland and the nearby Burrard Bridge in Vancouver to High Line in Manhattan, the six options all hope to increase comfortability for pedestrians and cyclists on the bridge while increasing use. 

Four of the six shortlisted options focus on one side of the bridge or the other. In the West Side and West Side+ options, the majority of bi-directional non-vehicle traffic moves to the west side in some form, while a small strip of crossing availability remains on the east side. East Side and East Side+ options mimic that of the West Side options, but on the other side of the bridge. 

A Both Sides option simply widens and improves the existing paths on both sides of the bridge. 

The most expensive and unique plan of the shortlisted six, the Raised Center, borrows from the Brooklyn Bridge design by creating a 3-ft raised sidewalk and bi-directional bike lane down the center of the bridge. The raised element creates further separation from the vehicles while creating views.

Each plan has pros and cons in terms of creating more public space, ease of changes to vehicle traffic, transit needs and more. The public has until Sept. 30 to comment on the shortlisted design proposals. 

Follow Tim Newcomb on Twitter at @tdnewcomb