BC government selects firm for Vancouver-North Shore rapid transit study

Oct 3 2019, 12:25 pm

The provincial government has selected a contractor to examine the technical feasibility of a potential high-capacity, fixed-link transit crossing across Burrard Inlet between Vancouver and the North Shore.

The Vancouver office of Mott Macdonald Ltd., a UK-based engineering and development consultancy company, will be conducting the study, which was first announced this past spring.

Mott Macdonald Ltd. has contributed to other transportation infrastructure projects in the region, including the recent study commissioned by TransLink on extending SkyTrain to UBC. It is also a partner in the Acciona Infrastructure and Ghella Canada-led consortium bidding to build the Millennium Line Broadway Extension to Arbutus.

The work entails studying a SkyTrain extension, additional SeaBus services, and other modes, while also considering compatibility with existing and future land use, and the potential for new affordable housing.

There is specifically interest with connecting North Vancouver’s Lonsdale city centre with downtown Vancouver and SkyTrain, which was one of the recommendations of the Integrated North Shore Transportation Planning Project (INSTPP) in 2018.

The first stage of the analysis will perform a preliminary scan of the possible routes, with considerations on topography, geotechnical aspects, and structural aspects, as well as factors such as construction and operational costs, and ridership forecasts.

This will be followed by second-stage work on more detailed engineering and planning review of the shortlisted options from the first stage, such as collecting additional engineering data and testing growth scenarios.

“Years of hikes in housing costs have forced people to live further from where they work, resulting in longer commutes and traffic congestion issues,” said Bowinn Ma, MLA for North Vancouver-Lonsdale and the chair of INSTPP. “Our government is committed to investigating and delivering effective solutions that will help get the North Shore moving again.”

Findings from the study will inform TransLink’s Transport 2050 process of creating a new 30-year regional transportation strategy by the end of 2020.

“Many people spend a lot of time stuck in traffic when travelling to and from the North Shore,” said TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond. “This feasibility study will look at ways we can improve congestion, understand the gridlock and prepare for future growth.”

The provincial government, City of Vancouver, City of North Vancouver, District of North Vancouver, and District of West Vancouver are jointly funding the study that will begin later this fall.

“In order to deal with rising congestion and the growing impacts of climate change, we need to make serious and long-term investments in rapid transit. And in an interconnected region like Metro Vancouver, improvements in one part of the system help us spend less time on the road and more time with the people we love,” said Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart.

“With public transit usage at all-time highs and growth that is outpacing the rest of North America, we need these kinds of investments more than ever to keep our region moving forward.”

In August, the federal government also announced its own parallel North Shore transportation study that will focus on economic development.

The last time the North Shore saw an added fixed-link crossing was in 1960 with the construction of the six-lane Ironworkers Memorial Bridge.

Over the span of these decades, two SkyTrain extensions and numerous road bridges have been built to cross the Fraser River in the region’s southern areas, but there has been no new link to the North Shore other than the launch of SeaBus in 1977.

Some major improvements have been made to SeaBus in recent years, including the renovation of the terminals, the acquisition of new additional vessels, and the introduction of 10-minute peak frequencies.

Needless to say, the Lions Gate Bridge and Ironworkers Memorial Bridge are severely strained, and these crossings are generally highly unreliable, with traffic-stopping accidents a frequent occurrence. Moreover, increased traffic to Squamish and Whistler has placed an even greater strain on the crossings in recent years.

The limits of both bridges and SeaBus have highly constrained housing and employment opportunities in the North Shore.