Report may seal viaducts’ fate – Potential plans include elevated parkway

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Bob MacKin
Van. Courier

Is the end near for the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts?

The agenda for Tuesday’s Vancouver city council meeting, the last scheduled meeting until September, includes an entry for an update on the fate of the remnants of the city’s aborted freeway network. The viaducts have been targeted for razing in a campaign championed by Vision Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs. The report was not available as of Thursday morning, but city staff have spent two years considering whether to remove the viaducts in whole or in part and reconfigure ground-level traffic around Northeast False Creek. Closing the viaducts to vehicles and transforming them into an elevated parkway has also been proposed.

Vancouver is not likely to copy Seattle, however, where the Alaskan Way Viaduct is being demolished near the waterfront and replaced by a $2.03 billion tunnel as part of a $3.1 billion project.

The Dunsmuir Viaduct includes a dedicated bike lane and offers the fastest vehicle route to downtown from the city’s East Side, except before B.C. Place Stadium and Rogers Arena events when they are often gridlocked. The Georgia Viaduct offers access from downtown to the East Side, just south of Strathcona where neighbours recently protested to pressure city hall to adopt a solution that keeps commuter cars and trucks out of the historic area.

Part of the reason to remove the viaducts is to free up land for development in Northeast False Creek. A report to the last council meeting before the 2011 summer break showed an aerial photograph of four parcels east of Rogers Arena totalling 11.9 acres that are currently covered by the viaducts. Local developers, mainly Concord Pacific, covet the land.

Aquilini Investment Group is hoping to build three towers around Rogers Arena, ranging from 24 to 32 storeys. Site preparation is already underway on the northwest side of the building, which opened in 1995, squeezed between the viaducts.

Meanwhile, a staff report on street and sidewalk inspection recommends the city not inspect boulevards, trails, roadways, lanes, shoulders and curbs not directly abutting sidewalks and crosswalks. Repairs would happen only after complaints. The city spends $200,000 a year to visually inspect 2,200 kilometres of sidewalks and 2,000 km of lanes and streets.

“When inspectors identify a hazard, maintenance staff are notified and repairs are scheduled to be completed within seven days,” said the report. “In a typical year our current inspection program identifies about 3,000 to 4,000 sidewalk hazards and about 300 to 400 street and lane hazards.”

There were 11,400 work orders last year, more than half for sidewalk troubles that were reported by inspectors. A sidewalk and crosswalk hazard is defined as a sharp vertical difference of more than 2.5 centimetres or where there is a gap of 2.5 cm deep at a crack or joint. A roadway hazard is more than 5 cm high or 5 cm deep.

City council is expected to rubber-stamp the purchase of 10 backhoe loaders for $1.6 million from Parker Pacific and two wheel loaders for $903,418 from Finning International. The city has not purchased construction equipment since 2009. It received six bids on the offered contracts by Nov. 29, 2011. Staff shortlisted two companies to provide five different types of equipment. Council approval is required for purchases worth more than $2 million.

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