Acknowledging the growing transportation issues that are being faced to get across Burrard Inlet, between the North Shore and Vancouver, the provincial government and TransLink announced today a technical feasibility study of a potential fixed rapid transit connection across the inlet to reach West Vancouver and North Vancouver.
The feasibility study follows last year’s release of the Integrated North Shore Transportation Planning Project (INSTPP) report, which made a number of recommendations including a connection between Lonsdale in North Vancouver with downtown Vancouver and the regional rapid transit network.
However, the new feasibility study will go much farther and consider the compatibility of a transit crossing with existing and future land use, as well as the potential for affordable housing. The technical aspects of this study are expected to determine the viability of extending the regional SkyTrain system across Burrard Inlet to reach North Shore communities.
This study could also explore increased use of the inlet waterway through an extended SeaBus network.
“Traffic congestion is intricately connected to issues like housing affordability,” said Bowinn Ma, MLA for North Vancouver-Lonsdale and the leader of INSTPP, in a statement.
“Over the years, the high cost of housing has forced people to move further from the places they work, resulting in longer commutes and serious traffic issues. This feasibility study is an extremely exciting addition to the many initiatives we have implemented so far and continue to work on to get the North Shore moving again.”
This latest study is a partnership between the BC Ministry of Transportation, TransLink, District of North Vancouver, City of North Vancouver, City of West Vancouver, and City of Vancouver, with the provincial and municipal governments providing funding towards the joint study, which will begin in summer 2019.
“This is wonderful news for us here in the City of North Vancouver and for the North Shore in general. Not only does approval of this funding demonstrate the benefits of intergovernmental co-operation, but it also brings us a critical step closer to addressing traffic issues in a meaningful way,” said Linda Buchanan, mayor of the City of North Vancouver.
“This is the kind of bold action we need to take as we work to become the healthiest small city in the world.”
The study will be conducted in parallel with TransLink’s Transport 2050 public consultation, which will help determine the 30-year-long regional transportation strategy, including the region’s next rapid transit projects beyond the planned SkyTrain extensions to UBC and Langley Centre.
Up until now, there has been relatively little attention to improving transportation connections across Burrard Inlet to the North Shore.
The last time the North Shore saw a new fixed crossing was the construction of the six-lane Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Bridge in 1960.
Over the span of these decades, two SkyTrain extensions and numerous road bridges have be built to cross the Fraser River in the region’s southern areas, but there has been no capacity increase across Burrard Inlet other than the launch of SeaBus in 1977.
There will be some improvements to the SeaBus service later this year, when the arrival of a new additional ferry vessel will allow TransLink to increase its peak hour frequencies for SeaBus from every 15 minutes to every 10 minutes.
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.