Powell Street overpass proposal will level buildings, raise street

Friday, May 25th, 2012

$50 million project would add pedestrian paths and bike lane

Micki Cowan
Van. Courier

The proposed overpass for Powell Street will cost $50 million and lead to the demolition of numerous buildings, including a heritage building in one of the oldest parts of Vancouver.

The subject of public consultations through a series of open houses, the overpass project seeks to move Powell Street approximately 20 metres to the south between Hawks Avenue and Clark Drive. The street would be raised as much as 10 to 11 metres in some sections to pass over a rail line that runs up from the south.

“We’re trying to improve the east-west corridor, but at the same time we’re also going over another rail line that comes in from the south. As trains are using it, traffic is delayed,” said Ted Barry, city engineer and Powell Street overpass project manager.

He hopes to take a motion to council by July, start construction early 2013 and finish in March 2014. The project would close Powell Street between Hawks Avenue and Clark Drive for about a year, detouring traffic to East Hastings Street.

The $50 million project would add pedestrian paths and a separated counter-flow bike lane—the first leg of the Portside Greenway bike lane—but not increase the double lanes of traffic that run each way. It would also allow for an additional CP rail line to be built in the rail yard north of Powell Street, which Barry says would benefit the city’s port economically by allowing for more transportation of goods by train.

But since the southern side of the street is lined with buildings, room would have to be made before the project could begin. City buildings would be demolished, while private buildings would be cut back in size or bought out.

One of the buildings set for demolition is a heritage building built in 1912 at 992 Powell St., which is just south of the historic Rogers Sugar factory, birthplace of the Canadian Rogers Sugar refiners. The building is the last standing structure of the Ramsey Brothers and Company Warehouse, which played a large role in Vancouver’s industrial history.

“There’s one heritage building that we’ve taken to the heritage committee and made them aware of the fact that we’re going to have to demolish that building because it’s right at the extreme portion of the project and there’s no way we can retain it,” said Barry.

Minutes from the April 16 meeting of the Vancouver Heritage Commission show the motion to approve the demolition of the Ramsey warehouse passed unanimously.

“The Vancouver Heritage Commission regrets the loss of the last fragment of…992 Powell Street, and the Commission acknowledges the need for the new Powell Street overpass,” read the motion.

Richard Campbell, president of the B.C. Cycling Coalition, supports the overpass project to provide what he says are greatly needed bike lane improvements.

“Powell Street is absolutely horrible. It’s probably one of the worst streets in the city. It really needs improving.”

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