The proposed plan to demolish Vancouver’s Dunsmuir and Georgia viaducts and build new park space has soared to $200 million, an increase of $70 million from earlier estimates when the City of Vancouver began exploring the feasibility of the project.
During a media event held today, the City’s planners confirmed that the plans include:
- tearing down the 1.3-kilometre-long, 1972-built viaducts and replacing it with a new 8-lane reconfiguration that merges Expo and Pacific boulevards;
- building a five per cent grade ramp at the end of Georgia Street between Rogers Arena and B.C. Place that leads to Pacific Boulevard;
- a 13-acre expansion of Creekside Park, a bridge connection for cyclists and pedestrians starting at Dunsmuir Street that gently descends from the escarpment;
- and a new neighbourhood for 2,500 units that consists of both market and affordable housing.
But before any part of the project can happen, the area’s soils must be remediated as the area contains a high level of toxins from False Creek’s industrial past.
The entire cost of the project, both the viaducts demolition and beautification of the area, will be covered by fees on the private development on the new land and through other sources.
Planners claim that the viaducts are seismically deficient and are no longer necessary transportation infrastructure as the route currently utilizes 750 of its 1,800 vehicle per lane per hour capacity. Currently, approximately half of the viaduct’s traffic comes from the eastern half of the city.
As well, staff assert that traffic levels on routes in and out of downtown have fallen by 20 per cent since 2000.
But Non-Partisan Association city councillor George Affleck is challenging the assertions of planners and the proponents with the Vision Vancouver party.
“I don’t understand how we’re possibly going to find $200 million and build a bunch of social housing,” Affleck told media. “The math doesn’t add up to me, but I’ll be look to this report to explain that. The $200 million cost will be embedded in the report.”
“Staff say traffic is down in the city, we don’t have people coming into the city – we don’t have people coming out of the city. Well the reason in my mind is that we make it so difficult to get around in the city. We’ve made Vancouver unattractive to come into.”
Travel times are expected to increase by up to three minutes on the same route if the viaducts are demolished and replaced by a major new road with four new traffic intersections.
Affleck also expressed his concerns on the possible need for the City to tap into its capital reserves or even increase taxes. He added that private developers who benefit most from the project should pay for the entire bill.
“The redevelopment should absolutely underwrite the $200 million cost. There should be a direct correlation on the added benefit to developers to pay for the destruction of the viaducts.”
Another $100 million is needed to complete the Malkin Connector Viaduct to transplant traffic from Prior Street.
A detailed staff report will be released on October 21 for deliberation by Vancouver City Council. If approved the viaducts could be demolished in 2018 and the full implementation of the entire project will occur in two phases over five years. An approval will also trigger the start of the planning process for the city park and new neighbourhood.