Vancouver City Council Votes to Erase Last Vestiges of Freeway System

An artist rendering of what the space now occupied by viaducts will look like. Image: City of Vancouver via CBC
An artist’s rendering of what the space now occupied by viaducts will look like. Image: City of Vancouver via CBC

Vancouver is famous for not having any freeways within the central city. But highway building got underway before public opposition quashed the freeway system in the early 1970s, and a couple of fragments of the old freeway structure have remained in the form of two short elevated roads.

Not for long, however.

CBC Canada reports that the Vancouver City Council voted yesterday to remove the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts. The city plans to add 13 acres of parks on the newly available space. Two city blocks will also be preserved for housing, including 300 below-market units.

The viaducts will be replaced by a four-lane, at-grade road. Planners estimate converting the viaducts to surface street will add about one to three minutes to motor vehicle trips. It would have cost $50 to $65 million to upgrade the viaducts to make them safe in case of an earthquake.

Tearing down the viaducts will cost about $200 million. But Business Vancouver reports the city expects to come out ahead when all is said and done:

The city anticipates the project will be paid for with development-related revenues, the sale or lease of lands, senior government contributions and “other strategic partnerships.” The city expects it will generate a surplus of $100 million once the project is finalized.

The project won’t be complete until 2025.

Interestingly leaders in Toronto recently moved in the opposite decision — voting to keep their elevated downtown freeway intact in the belief that saving drivers a few minutes was of paramount importance. It will be interesting to see how these diverging decisions affect these cities going forward.

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