Vancouver City Council to discuss providing relief to businesses impacted by subway construction

Jun 2 2022, 1:25 am

TEAM city councillor Colleen Hardwick has put forward a motion calling on the City of Vancouver to consider offering “relief” to businesses struggling under the impacts of SkyTrain’s Millennium Line Broadway Extension construction.

While the subway’s tunnel beneath Broadway will be built using twin tunnel boring machines, some localized cut-and-cover construction is still required for the five new stations at Main Street (Mount Pleasant Station), Cambie Street (Broadway-City Hall Station), Laurel Street (VGH-Oak Station), Granville Street (South Granville Station), and Arbutus Street (Arbutus Station). This involves digging from the surface level downwards.

Major construction on these subway station sites first began one year ago, starting with the installation of temporary traffic bridge decks to maintain through-traffic arterial capacity throughout the duration of the excavation and construction of the stations.

Traffic deck construction is still a work in progress for the westernmost stations in the project. To date, most of the disruptions to businesses and traffic are the result of traffic deck construction.

The impacts to local businesses are greatest near these station construction sites, but there has been an overall aversion to the entire Broadway corridor due to the accessibility and parking impacts. These construction impacts are also compounded by the pandemic’s economic effects.

In her motion, Hardwick states “the loss of business has had a profound impact on the livelihood of both property owners and renters of commercial space along the Broadway Corridor.”

“Cut-and-cover sections of construction restrict pedestrian, vehicle, and bus access to merchants. Visibility of businesses in cut-and-cover sections is severely limited and significantly impacted. Properties along the Broadway corridor are not provided with the same level of access for customers, suppliers and deliveries.”

She asserts the mitigation measures by the provincial government’s private contractor for the project and the City of Vancouver’s “Broadway Is Open” awareness campaign have not been effective in offsetting business losses.

According to Hardwick, businesses receive construction impact information and are consulted on schedule changes with only a week or two advance notice.

broadway-city hall station traffic deck

Traffic deck installation process for Broadway-City Hall Station. (Government of BC)

broadway-city hall station traffic deck

Artistic rendering of the traffic deck installation and excavation for the Millennium Line platforms at Broadway-City Hall Station. (Government of BC)

If approved by Vancouver City Council later this month, city staff would be directed to explore relief options such as relaxation of business property taxes and develop a program similar to that of the City of Montreal’s financial assistance program for businesses affected by major construction. Montreal’s program offers financial assistance of up to $40,000 per fiscal year per impacted business, and is calculated based on the actual revenue losses incurred.

Following the high years-long business impacts of open cut-and-cover construction on Cambie Street for the Canada Line in the 2000s, TransLink, the City of Vancouver, and the provincial government pursued a tunnel boring method for the Millennium Line Broadway Extension as the key mitigation strategy to reduce the impacts on businesses and traffic. Tunnel boring also comes at a greater cost; it is more expensive than cut-and-cover construction.

Over the many years, Cambie Street businesses impacted by the Canada Line have pursued legal action against TransLink to receive compensation for their revenue losses. In May 2020, the BC Court of Appeal overturned a 2018 ruling and sided with TransLink, reversing a previous court decision that ordered the public transit authority to pay a combined total of about $181,000 to three businesses. But the appeal decision triggered new court trials for two of the businesses.

Tunnel boring for the new subway will begin this summer, and it will take about one year for the tunnel boring machines to travel five km from the tunnel boring pit at the future site of Great Northern Way-Emily Carr Station — passing through the excavated subway station boxes along Broadway to reach Cypress Street, just east of Arbutus Station.

The temporary vehicle traffic decks above the station construction sites and the restoration of roads and streetscapes are scheduled to occur starting in 2024. If all goes as planned, the $2.8-billion Millennium Line Broadway Extension will open by late 2025.

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