The viaducts were part of a proposed freeway system through East Vancouver in 1971, until residents protested, and the project was abandoned. In June 2013, the city council made a unanimous vote to study the potential impact of removing the viaducts that connect the downtown to neighborhoods on the city’s East side.
Since that unanimous vote, city staff consulted communities and studied traffic. Reports show the viaducts hold six-percent of trips to and from downtown, and it would cost $50 to $65 million to make the viaducts earthquake safe.
Mayor Gregor Robertson said in a written statement, “There is no decision at the city that has been more scrutinized, studied, deliberated or consulted on than whether or not to remove the viaducts, and after four years, it is time to move forward.”
To compensate the loss, a four-lane, at-grade road will be built, adding only one to three minutes in vehicle travel time, while the available land becomes thirteen acres of park space. Also, two city blocks will be preserved for housing, providing 300 below-market units.
Although the demolition will cost approximately $200 million, the city anticipates a surplus of $100 million by the time the project is complete in 2025.
Previously, Toronto leaders voted to preserve their elevated downtown freeway, prioritizing commute time.