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Viaduct study passes, reduced to $300,000 cost

June 24th, 2010 · 45 Comments

People are anxious about the idea of making radical changes to the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts, an idea that appeared suddenly last fall and is moving ahead as of today. Vision councillors agreed to fund a study to look at options, although they limited the public complaints about the $700,000 cost by saying they’re only going to start with a first $300,000 phase and then council will decide whether to go further after results from the early studies are in.

As I note in my Globe story in tomorrow’s paper, taking a lane from the Burrard Bridge was one thing. Removing one of the three main commuter routes in the tangled road mess east and north of False Creek is another. The viaducts are one of the several examples around the city of Vancouver’s ambivalent attitude to car traffic over the years. Like the Champs Elysees-width Pacific Boulevard, the grand sweep of Burrard Bridge on the south end, and Georgia Street, the viaducts are a stretch of road that looks like a freeway but that runs ends up funneling drivers into regular non-freeway-style streets later on.

As I noodled around among pieces of historic research, it became apparent to me that the east/north corner of False Creek has always been a particular mess, a tangle of small roads that were part of the historic communities there, alternating with chunks of big road as various councils have tried to create solutions for commuter traffic. (The Columbia-Quebec connector, that weird strip of highway road that runs in front of Science World, is another effort to fix the mess, also built in 1972 like the viaducts.)

While people are worried about the impact of tearing down or re-routing the viaducts (i.e. more cars trolling through the small streets of Gastown and Chinatown), the reality is that was never a very well-designed commuter route. At the eastern end, it dumps traffic onto Venables, which runs alongside Strathcona single-family houses, and that it eventually dead-ends at Victoria.

For those who think that removing or rejigging the viaducts would someone free up huge tracts of land that Vancouver could sell for mucho dollars — no such luck, I’m hearing. While the one block east of Main, where the ramps are, would be an attractive site, the land west of Main under the viaducts is super-contaminated. It would cost a fortune to build anything there.

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