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Panel selects major arterial route for Vancouver's False Creek Flats

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Vincent Plana Apr 11, 2019 9:50 am

A potential route has been selected for a major arterial road through Vancouver’s False Creek Flats.

The decision process began earlier this spring, when a community panel of randomly selected residents and business owners was chosen. From there, public consultation and discussion for the project began.

The project’s main objective is to provide the road network with grade separation from the busy freight railway corridor to the Port of Vancouver’s Centerm terminal.

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Growing traffic from CN has brought increased delays for commuters where the railway crosses the arterial route at Prior/Venables Street.

According to the municipal government, there is an average of 12.5 blockages per day. Each blockage lasts approximately six and a half minutes.

Based on a count that was done last fall, some of the heaviest train crossings take place during the early afternoon and evening peak traffic periods.

false creek flats

The problematic Prior/Venables Street at-grade railway crossing. (Google Maps Streetview)

After an extensive discussion and ranked choice voting, the Flats Arterial Community Panel ranked five potential route options for an east-west grade-separated arterial.

The options range in costs — from $80 million to as much as $230 million — in addition to the expected $200-million cost to remove the viaducts.

Key factors that were used when discussing each route’s pros and cons included transportation performance, cost and constructability, impacts to local businesses, community livability, parks and recreational spaces, and public and community facilities.

The five short-listed routes were as follows:

  • Prior/Venables – Underpass
  • Malkin North
  • National-Grant
  • National-Charles
  • National-Civic Facilities

After a final vote, National-Charles was selected as the panel’s recommended arterial route, receiving 67.7% of the vote.

Prior/Venables-Underpass received the remaining 32.4%, taking the spot of runner-up.

National-Charles

false creek flats

The proposed route for National-Charles, which received the majority of support from the community panel.

One of the advantages of National-Charles is that the route would have a lower negative impact on businesses compared to other alignments. It maintains improved access and a lesser impact on “Produce Row” and other businesses.

It would also move arterial traffic further away from residential areas because it’s further south of Prior and Strathcona Park.

That being said, it looks to be one of the most expensive routes to build. Factors like land acquisition and construction costs could make it difficult to secure adequate funding.

The estimated cost for an arterial route through National would run between $345 to $485 million to construct. That includes a construction cost ranging from $150 to $200 million, as well as land acquisition and property mitigation costs that range from $195 to $285 million.

The route also has a longer construction time, is more complex, and would require the use of relocation services.

Prior/Venables – Underpass

false creek flats

The proposed Prior/Venables route, which received the remainder of the votes.

Based on city estimates, Prior/Venables would be a low-cost option. Underpass structure costs, park mitigation costs, land acquisition costs, and roadway costs are lower compared to other proposed routes.

It provides less of a transportation impact on Produce Row’s distribution hub because it’s less disruptive.

Local residents would also have easier and more efficient access to public transit, local amenities, and services due to shorter walking distances.

One drawback, however, is that the road would be more narrow, meaning less room for sidewalks, cycling lanes, parking, and boulevards.

Cost estimates for a Prior-Venables underpass are significantly cheaper compared to the National-Charles route. Total project costs are estimated to be between $65 to $100 million, which is broken down into a $45 to $70 million construction cost and a $20 to $30 million acquisition and property mitigation cost.

A final decision

The Vancouver city council and the Vancouver Park Board will have ultimate authority to accept, modify, or reject the recommendations of the community panel.

During the last two weeks of April, presentations will be made to the city council and the Park Board. City staff will take panel input and begin the planning, financial, technical processes.

A recommendation from the city will be made in Fall 2019 and the final decision will be made at a later date.

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