Shortly after City Council voted to proceed with demolishing the Viaducts came this:


Stone 1

B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone said the City of Vancouver needs to “cool down” on its plan to remove the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts. …
“I checked with my officials and it has been a number of years since the city took any meaningful steps to reach out to PAVCO which owns and operates B.C. place,” said Stone.


Stephen Quinn in The Globe quickly demolished that line:

(Minister Todd Stone) went on to say that he was not aware of any meaningful discussions between the city of Vancouver and PavCo and, to him, this was a concern.

He was wrong.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson told me in an interview later that day that over the past two years there have been at least eight meetings between senior city staff and top officials at PavCo to work on a plan for the eventual removal of the viaducts.

“There’s a good paper trail on this,” he said. “…

A source at City Hall supplied me with the dates of those meetings. The mayor was right – there were eight of them between April, 2014, and September of this year.


So what’s going on?  It’s hard to believe that the Minister was so poorly briefed.  Or is this simply a case of looking for any justification to overrule the City and maintain the Viaducts?
If so, why?
It certainly leads to speculation that the long-term intent of the Province is to effectively replicate the purpose of the proposed Chinatown freeway in order to link Highway 1 with downtown.   I’m thinking, in particular, of my speculation here – in which the Viaducts would be a piece of a larger corridor.



Click to enlarge


The Province could assemble any number of arguments: PavCo’s and stadium requirements, the new St. Paul’s Hospital needs for access, a desired tunnel under Grandview by the residents themselves, a ‘parkway’ with sound protection for residents along East 1st – all without ever using the term freeway.

And don’t forget: no transit upgrades to serve growth from the east, thanks to the defeat of the referendum.  Therefore the need to maintain and enhance road access.


Then there are these comments on the Viaduct decision, picked up by Bob Mackin:




So who’s Geoff Freer?  This guy:
Freer 2
Not only executive director of the Gateway Project and South Fraser Perimeter Road but also, now, executive project director for the Massey Bridge, and likely the widening of Highway 99.
In other words, the go-to guy to build the massive highway and bridge infrastructure that will bring new lanes of traffic right up to the borders of Vancouver.
And then what?
Perhaps that’s really what the Minister means: The Viaducts are not a ‘done deal’ because, possibly, another deal is in the works.


  1. The province CAN’T be serious about wanting to build this highway. It’s good to be skeptical, but this is an April Fool’s prank.
    It is far more likely that: 1) the Premier is scoring some easy points at the expense of the Mayor. She knows a lot of people don’t want it torn down, and why should she make anything easy for him? and 2) decommissioning highway infrastructure causes actual, physical pain to highway engineers. It is a major disturbance in The Force. Of course the men who spend their entire careers building them will personally oppose it.
    At the very worst, the vague threats of building this highway will be used as leverage to push through some other ridiculous highway in Delta or Sechelt. Granted, that’s pretty awful, but there will be no Chinatown Highway.

  2. Doesn’t Mr. Freeway Builder realize the hypocrisy in his own words
    “… no option or multiple account evaluation, assumptions adjusted to fit one solution”
    as applied to his own trade? If he had done a “multiple account” life-cycle evaluation of his monstrous projects and their ten billion dollar collective public cost (not including debt servicing) I’d sure like to see it.

  3. Let me play devil’s advocate and ask what are the advantages (to the BC Liberals) of extending Hwy 1 through the downtown core? What’s the destination? The port?
    I read the speculative piece by Pricetags from August, but I don’t see the BC Liberals building something out of a concern for urbanism, even if an antiquated view of urbanism. And certainly not to benefit Vancouver.
    It. Must. Serve. The. Resource. Industry.
    The Massey Bridge I get, It’s about making the Fraser navigable to larger freighters. It serves the resource industry.
    So what’s the angle here?

  4. The residents along and around 1st Avenue and Grandview Woodlands certainly need some relief. Highway 1 isn’t going anywhere and this is the main entry into the city from the east. This is not the first we’re heard a proposal for a tunnel. A tunnel running from Highway 1 seems like a very good idea. This would free up and make much more livable a vast swath of dense residential neighbourhoods. The link to the hospital is also very important. Continuation of a tunnel up and under Clark to the port makes complete sense.

    1. Indeed. Plus a subway or elevated RAPID people mover from downtown through E-Van to N-Van and N-Burnaby, for example this one: as it is far cheaper than a subway and could likely be mounted on existing bridges such as Lionsgate or Second Narrows to connect to N-Van and W-Van. It would also revitalize E-Van as it is a blight and needs a rapid people mover (below or above ground).

      1. Thomas this is one comment that I agree with you on. Skytran or PRT could be a transportation future that makes even driverless cars influence minor in comparison.

    2. except there’s no way that ambulances would go through a tunnel. They already avoid the viaducts because of the chance that they could become blocked by traffic or an accident without any ability to turn around, so why would they go through a multiple-kilometre tunnel?
      What’s more, what are the opportunity costs of a tunnel, that is, what could we build with that money instead? What are the potential problems, with an eye to Seattle’s many construction problems and delays associated with tunneling? What type of urban development and associated health/monetary costs will this encourage?

    3. Stupid idea. All you have to do is introduce in-car road pricing meters and the amount of people using First Ave. would drop overnight. You don’t reduce congestion by building more roads even LA has learned that, you apparently have learned little.

    4. A 3km-long tunnel highway would be a great idea…if conjured by an attractive suburban housewife who also happens to be a witch. She could just wriggle her nose, nod her head, and presto – a $2B tunnel appears with no fuss or mess. Or it could be Barbara Eden in a little genie outfit. Let’s not be picky.
      In reality, this is a 15-year long project if everything goes perfectly, which it never does. It expends all political capital by every single party, creates about a 150% turnover in local elected officials, requires tens of thousands of square metres in land acquisition, and disrupts utility service, land development, zoning bylaw, and transportation patterns for an entire generation. And that’s assuming it’s a tunnel and not a covered trench. It will make the Big Dig look like a walking school bus.
      And at the end of it, any remaining residents of the terribly down-trodden 1st Ave and Grandview Woodlands area have roughly the same amount of traffic in front of their houses as they currently do – as tens of thousands abandon transit in favour of all that new road capacity. No, this is a horrible idea, and it makes me wish people would think before speaking. But you know what they say about wishing…

  5. It’s hard to credit this as the opening gambit to build a freeway. Vancouver revolted against those in the 70s. We may have declined to actually pay for transit recently, but I don’t think even a sizable minority would stomach actually building a freeway here. If the Liberals really pushed that, I’d wager they’d face electoral slaughter in Vancouver. This is probably a power play, or just playing to some base. (Though never discount sheer incompetence.)
    But let’s assume they really do want to build a freeway, or at least keep the viaducts for some other reason. How big a hammer would the province need? The city’s voted to tear them down. What’s sufficient to reverse that:
    – executive action by Minister Stone or cabinet?
    – threats or bribes to the city, say cutting off some funding source?
    – amending the Vancouver Charter, or some other legislative act?

  6. Here’s another striking view. Consider that the right side of this image shows the landscaped area over the top of the Rhonda Littoral highway, right next to the north-west entrance to Barcelonetta, with the residences, cafés and the beach.
    (Size Reduced URL):

    1. There are 12 approach lanes before the portal. Twelve lanes … in Grandview? Where are the inevitable exhaust vents? Fires with commercial trucks surrounded by car and bus traffic would be devastating and would likely damage the tunnel structure. What is the cost per km? What is the cost premium per km over building a tunnel for passenger trains? Where is the business case analysis? What would be the public cost of setting such a terrible precedence?
      A lot of practical questions need answers, Eric, before this idea even leaves the overactive imagination of an armchair dreamer.

  7. I don’t think province wants to build a highway into Vancouver, it would electoral suicide. I think they want to pick a fight with vision and COV over the viaducts. Then they will be seen as some sort of hero to the suburbanites. This will be horrible.

  8. I suggest that the City of Vancouver place a referendum question on the next municipal election ballot –“ Would want freeways built into the core of Vancouver?”.

  9. I can’t quite see how removing and diverting the traffic on 1st Avenue and on Grandview, underground, thereby creating calm landscaped spaces at the grade level, can be considered a freeway.
    Not one resident of the area would be opposed.

    1. 1)Huge cost, that would not be recouped through tolls
      2)Huge disruptions, cut and cover
      3)All the entrances and exits to the tunnel need to be built

      1. 1) The new government has promised billions for infrastructure.
        2) The boring machine worked quietly going under False Creek for the Canada Line.
        3) The entrance from Highway 1 is simple due to the natural topography. 1st Avenue west from the highway is an incline. The exits and entrances are simple since no residences are there, just wide spans of industrial land.
        The western end is also a natural, since 1st Avenue declines from Commercial down the escarpment and continues to decline west of Clark. Again, the exited and entrances at the west end is all industrial land.

        1. It’s not this simple or this easy, Eric. ‘N’ is right. It’s a massive cost and many many years of disruption – even if a tunnel boring machine can be used, which is not a guarantee. There is no comparative assessment – quantitative or qualitative – by which this highway would be worth its cost. None whatsoever.

        2. Lol the tunnel boring machine would have to be massive to accommodate the existing 6 lanes of the viaduct. Its not a simple tube like a metro.

      2. 2) The Canada Line boring machines drilled 6 m diameter tunnels per direction. Roads require a minium of 10 m per direction. The Seattle TBM (which they named Bertha) got stuck when drilling an 18 m diameter tunnel costing several billion $US to serve only 35,000 cars a day.
        At these sizes, you are removing over 100,000 m3 of material per kilometre more for two 10m traffic tunnels than the twin tunnels of the Canada Line. The construction costs are atrotious when you add up all the concrete, rebar, electrical, etc. And you are certainly not going to move over 100,000 people a day in tunnels built for suburban car commuters.

  10. Dan; “There is no comparative assessment – quantitative or qualitative –” that sounds very like technocrat-bureaucratese. Try explaining it to all those residents along 1st and Grandview.

  11. For highway tunnels it would be much easier to do a cut and cover box. Simply put, round isn’t the right shape for a road tunnel excavation.
    I’ve been toying with the idea of cutting a bench beside the Grandview Cut. If the right of way for North Grandview Hwy (which is just a side street) was excavated down about 40′, then 2 layers of roads could be installed and a “lid” could be installed back on top. It would be like a tunnel to people on surface, but would feel similar to a snow shed for the road users. This would also likely improve the stability of the Grandview Cut.
    Then when the new highway gets to Slocan St. it could transition to the existing surface Grandview Hwy. A couple interchanges to upgrade the intersections on Grandview and you’re at the existing freeway interchange which was just massively upgraded.
    The best part about this idea is that there’s no new construction required on Hwy 1. Adding another exit between Boundary and McGill would really screw up traffic flow. Highway exits need to be spaced out as far as possible in urban settings. If they’re too close together it causes the traffic merging in to interfere with the traffic exiting at the next exit.

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