News / Vancouver

Viaducts question a chance to make a better city

Get the ball rolling now, while we still have the space and capacity to make Vancouver even better.

An artist's rendering of the view of False Creek Flats looking west from Main Street after the removal of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts. Vancouver's city council is currently debating on whether to remove them.

City of Vancouver

An artist's rendering of the view of False Creek Flats looking west from Main Street after the removal of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts. Vancouver's city council is currently debating on whether to remove them.

This week, Vancouver City Council will continue discussing the possible removal of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts. Tuesday and Thursday nights, council chambers will be packed with citizens wanting their five minutes at the speakers’ mic. Last week’s batch of speakers raised good points in support and also cynicism about the staff report which recommends viaduct removal as an opportunity for social housing, more parks and public space.

That report includes a note from acting city manager Sadhu Johnston, co-signed by the soon to  be retired general manager of planning and development services, Brian Jackson, and Jerry Dobrovolny, who just last week was formally named general manager of engineering dervices. The note begins, “the opportunity to remove the viaducts and create a new neighborhood that is connected to many existing neighborhoods is a once in a lifetime opportunity to address many council objectives”.

And that sums up perfectly why we are wrestling with the fate of the viaducts right now. It’s not that the remnants of Vancouver’s stillborn freeway system have reached the end of their life span and we need to scramble to decide what to do next. No, this is not just a utilitarian discussion; it’s a debate about legacy and city-making.

There’s more at stake than a chance to toot our horn as the greenest city, but given how much of our city is already built out, we won’t have many chances to create this scale of green space again.

And, we can be hopeful that the new federal government could help us realize the plan’s affordable housing goals too.

We could get some more use out of the current viaducts before they start to crumble, or a strong earthquake hits and renders them, and the SkyTrain line that dips under them, useless. But why would we wait until fate forces us to act?

When was the last time we saw a successful plan developed in the nick of time? Let’s get the ball rolling now, while we still have the space and capacity to make choices that will make this city even better.

Trish Kelly lives and writes in East Vancouver. Follow her on Twitter @trishkellyc

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