Now you see them, but in a few year's time you won't. The City of Vancouver has voted to tear down its Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts.
The $200 million plan will free up land for development and parks, while netting the city millions in development fees.
According to the planning department, the replacement will also be cheaper to maintain and more resilient to natural disasters such as earthquakes. In June 2013, council voted unanimously to move forward with the final phase of planning work for removal of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts. Since then, city staff have conducted traffic impact studies and community consultation.
This work as done to refine the understanding of what the viaduct removals would mean for Vancouver. In addition to technical research, city staff conducted 13 open houses and 38 stakeholder meetings since June 2014. A two week exhibit of viaduct technical findings is currently on display at Science World. The viaducts were originally designed and constructed as part of the first phase of a freeway network through East Vancouver that was never completed. The plan was to build a freeway though the downtown and connect to Highway 1. It was intended to carry up to 1,800 vehicles per lane per hour. According to the city, today the viaducts carry only 750 vehicles per lane per hour during rush hour. Over the last 20 years, vehicle traffic into the downtown has declined by 20 per cent, while at the same time the city has grown with more jobs, residents and transportation trips overall. Research and community consultation over the last two years revealed that an at-grade road network will be more resilient to natural disasters, such as earthquakes and five to 10 times less expensive for the city to maintain. Extensive modeling of the proposed new road network has shown that it will be capable of accommodating 100 per cent of the current traffic volume and will reconnect surrounding neighbourhoods – like Strathcona and Grandview-Woodlands – to the downtown core and waterfront. Social benefits of removing the viaducts include a 13 per cent larger park space and the opportunity to build social housing on city-owned property. However, the window for the project is closing. As lands owned by developers surrounding the viaducts start getting developed, costs will rise and timelines will extend.