Over the years, I thought I had seen all the renderings and sketches for the various freeway proposals that had been put forward in the late 1960s and early ’70s.

Nope.  The indispensable John Mackie, the Sun journalist with the time, interest and access to the paper’s archives, has pulled out some great pics to illustrate this week’s history column: 1967 — Wacky Bennett and Tom Terrific team up to push for a third crossing.

In the 1960s everybody seemed to have a plan for a new bridge or tunnel at the First Narrows. But nobody wanted to pay for it.

So on March 23, 1967, Social Credit Premier W.A.C. Bennett came up with a funding formula: 40 per cent from the federal government, 40 per cent from the provincial and civic governments, and 20 per cent from the National Harbours Board and the developers of Project 200, a giant highrise development on the downtown waterfront.

Bennett talked Vancouver Mayor Tom Campbell into supporting his plan. But federal Liberal Arthur Laing dismissed it as “ridiculous nonsense.” …

The same day Bennett announced his formula, a consortium of four city engineering firms unveiled a $57-million plan to twin the Lions Gate Bridge.

Artist’s conception of a 1960 proposal for a new bridge from the North Shore to Brockton Point.


View from the corner of Comox and Thurlow streets in the proposed ‘Big Trench’ downtown-freeway system, 1960. Note mini-bridges across freeway on Robson, Haro, Alberni and Georgia streets.


An artist’s conception of a 1960s’ freeway in Vancouver, showing the unbuilt east-west freeway that would have sliced through East Vancouver to Burnaby, and a freeway that would have gone through the West End. Note there is no Carrall Street freeway.


Map of a proposed 1960 ‘waterfront parkway,’ six-lane freeway that would have been built in English Bay. The present beach would have become a ‘bay lagoon’ if it had gone through. The plan also shows a second bridge to the east of the Lions Gate Bridge.


More pics here.


  1. That third crossing as a tunnel would have been an excellent idea.

    It would have allowed us today to close Lionsgate bridge through scenic Stanley Park if that tunnel had been 6 or 8 lanes. Now we essentially make Stanley Park incl Lost Lagoon a very noisy park, useful only along the seawall but with a very noisy interior park.

    A tunnel as depicted from downtown below Brockton Point would have been far FAR better !

    Perhaps that plan should be re-evaluated .. then Lionsgate bridge removed or kept as a ped/bike lane due to removal cost !!

    Ditto Third Narrows as a tunnel !

    1. Or, how about we recognize the decline in MV traffic in Vancouver and not spend $billions on new infrastructure for cars?

      It’s unfortunate that the causeway slices through Stanley Park but a third crossing would be even more so. Look at those images again, especially 3 and 4. It would have been a disaster. We’re very fortunate it never happened.

      1. Have you tried to get on or off the North Shore in a vehicle lately Ron? I’m not sure how that survey is handled that “measures” vehicle traffic, but my guess it misses a lot that isn’t going directly downtown.

        As Thomas said, a tunnel as a Third Crossing would have taken much of the surface traffic out of the West End. Should vehicle traffic indeed be proven to have declined to all areas from the North Shore, the Lions Gate Bridge could have been decomissioned and the causeway removed, thus healing the park.

        1. I get to the North Shore by bike, SeaBus and bus. No problemo. If everybody wants to clog up the bridges in their SOVs that’s their problem. Look at West Vancouver’s decision to nix (or at least delay) a B-Line.

          Why should we be concerned about those who don’t even want to try to make a difference?

          Building a big new crossing to replace a small old bridge is not a way to keep traffic snarls out of the city nor to make Vancouver more livable. Where would the induced traffic all go?

          Traffic in and around downtown has been in decline for twenty years. Traffic in and around the city at large has been in decline for somewhat less time than that. But if it is increasing at the entry points, including the bridges, then Vancouverites must be driving even less than the decline indicates.

          Learn and emulate.

          1. Due to geography to get from W Van anywhere south one must cross the narrows and get through downtown.

            As such tunneling options, incl a W Georgia tunnel ought to be evaluated. Tunnels are far quieter than bridges and visually a lot less intrusive, and last 200+ years once built. They enhance a city incl recreational areas and real estate values. One can build above it or have parks around it. A bridge destroys value around it for several hundred meters in either direction.

            Ditto Granville street as it exits the False Creek bridge and heads uphill. 6th to 16th is a major shopping and residential area and a tunnel there too would be a major life style and value enhancement to get cars / traffic out of downtown south.

            Granville Bridge is one such monstrosity from teh industrial era when we need to get tall ship under it. It could be a tunnel too enhance False Creek area.

            Ditto Third Narrows from PoCo to N-Van .. or Massey Tunnel widening.

            Many places around the Lower Mainland where a tunnel would enhance life as opposed to a noisy bridge !!

    2. Yes, and instead would have forced a 6-lane highway straight up the length of McKay Creek in North Vancouver, in addition to removing about 40 hectares from its industrial waterfront. It is appealing to empty one’s chamber pot in someone else’s yard.

      Plus you of course know that a tunnel would never have closed the bridge. We have enough trouble conceiving of highway closures in our supposedly enlightened era. In the 60’s? It would never have happened. There just would have been 2 highways.

  2. Every time I go to Toronto I thank the former political fathers of Vancouver and BC for their pettiness, ineptitude, and general shortcomings in failing to bring this nonsense here. They clearly wanted to but could not muster the vision or capital. If the had succeeded in building a highway and tunnel, traffic would be far worse than it is now and we’d be forever hostage to its operating and maintenance demands, just like everywhere else.

    Not building highways through town was 1000% the right move, intentional or not. There is no debate.

    1. Certainly downtown Toronto waterfront would benefit from closing the elevated Gardiner Expressway and put it underground.

      Ditto Vancouver, where due to geography one must funnel traffic through downtown to north shore.

      I used ot live near Duesseldorf where they did just that. A major tourist / resort / lifestyle / real estate / shopping enhancement now with restaurants, pubs, pedestrian areas, bike trails, trees where a highway used to be above ground, now in a 2 km tunnel on the Rhine waterfront.

      Some links here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rheinufer_Tunnel or here (in German) https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rheinuferpromenade

    2. Extremely refreshing to see non-intentionality/pettiness/ineptitude recognized as the key reasons for the lack of downtown freeways in Vancouver as opposed to the usual mythologizing of the intentional choice/protests/foresight (of which there was some, to be sure). Worth noting that the same situation prevailed in Calgary as well, where the leadership class’s lack of ability to get the job done on riverfront freeways met with more visionary women who saw the river’s potential: (https://www.erudit.org/fr/revues/uhr/2005-v34-n1-uhr0613/1016045ar.pdf).

      Not to understate the achievements and foresight of the activists who fought these freeways, but – particularly in Vancouver – we don’t hear often enough about how badly these roads were wanted and how close we came to some really bad decisions.

      1. A road in a tunnel would make / would have made a lot of sense in / through Vancouver and/or to NVan, or as a third narrows crossing.

        Granville, Cambie or Burrrard Bridge today would NEVER be built between dense housing either.

        Tunnels the way to go, esp today as far far cheaper now to build (vs bridges) than 40-75 years ago.

        Land today so valuable in many places, esp waterfront or downtown, that we have to think 3D, not 2D anymore !

          1. Until it is changed.

            Only bikers read this blog ? Only your opinion matters as you are more pro-bike than I am ?

            You have to learn to accept that other people have different, equally valid, or sometimes more sensible, worldviews.

            I bike too .. btw .. and I would never dream of riding along Broadway if a more scenic and far safer dedicated bike path is available within 3 blocks on either side !

          2. I think Thomas is allowed to think of way out there ideas and to repeat himself too. A third crossing (really a fourth crossing since the SeaBus counts as a crossing) would be fine with me.
            Having said that it’s got to be multi-modal and multi-modal connections on both ends has to be part of the design from the beginning (and not removed at the last minute.)

          3. Yes, you’re right. My comment wasn’t helpful. But…

            A third crossing is not likely to ever happen, or if it does it will be so far in the future we can’t imagine the circumstances. From concept to construction would likely be twenty years and the concept is politically untenable and will remain so for a long long time. So for all intents and purposes it’s just not going to happen.

            But Thomas is going to continue to repeat himself “Until it’s changed”. Hopefully he tires of it on his own.

          4. Third or Even Fourth Narrows (to Burnaby and to Coquitlam/Belcarra) area has a lot of development on both sides now. A tunnel, incl trains loop makes sense given the land values and future traffic. Includes a train/subway, of course. To not choke NVan with cars we need more train/subway options there.

            But yes, 2050 or later likely given the opposition here to anything new & major like port expansions, road widening, new tunnels or bridges, subways etc ..

      2. “Extremely refreshing to see non-intentionality/pettiness/ineptitude recognized as the key reasons for the lack of downtown freeways in Vancouver as opposed to the usual mythologizing of the intentional choice/protests/foresight (of which there was some, to be sure).”

        While it’s true that it might well have been pushed through, despite the significant protests if the financing could have been secured, it changed the conversation to the point that it hasn’t been seriously considered since. So in that sense the activism remains extremely valuable to this day. And it has also played a major role in how the city and its citizens understand transportation issues besides that crossing proposal. (The suburbs are quite another matter, but even that’s changing.)

        Still, we’ll never really know for sure if those protests weren’t the straw that broke the crossing’s back.

        Pipeline protests are similar. It seems futile when several thousand people march in the street knowing they’re up against a determined federal government and an oil industry worth $trillions. Yet at least two major pipelines that might have been a slam dunk a decade earlier have been stopped altogether and others have been delayed by years.

        It seems likely to me that none of the Alberta pipelines still on the table will make economic sense to build within a decade. We may still be a decade away from an actual decline in oil demand but all it takes is a plateau to remove justification for costly infrastructure expansion – especially for the more expensive hydrocarbons like tar sands. I think that plateau is upon us. In our economic system, when things aren’t growing they are failing. Nobody wants to back a declining industry. Sometimes a delay is enough to kill a project. There is still hope for TMX being shelved.

        Then, in a few decades, we can debate which forces played a role in killing it.

  3. Thomas, you refer to riding on alternate routes that are more scenic. That’s great, if those routes are where you want to ride. What if you are visiting a medical clinic, going to a meeting, going to a bank, and shopping? I do all of those on Broadway. How does a more scenic road several blocks away help me with transportation trips? It doesn’t. It relegates cycling to recreational trips. That is fine, if that is your sole reason for cycling. Some of us have to actually get places.

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