Vancouver viaducts' removal was discussed with province, mayor claims
B.C. transportation minister says province not consulted and viaducts' removal not a done deal,
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson denies B.C. Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone's claims that the city hadn't consulted with the province before voting to remove the viaducts that lead to the downtown core.
"I think he may not have been briefed and updated on the extensive meetings and discussions that have been going on between the city and the province," said Robertson.
After city councillors voted 5-4 to remove the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts, Stone said the viaducts' removal was not a done deal and that city needed to "cool down" on its plans.
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"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.
Stone said provincial officials didn't attend the more than 50 public meetings about the plan over the summer, as it was up to the city to come to them.
But Robertson said city staff had met with PavCo at least eight times over the past two years.
A week before the council decision, PavCo wrote to the mayor and council saying it was "willing to engage in detailed feasibility discussions" about the removal of the viaducts, but warned that there had only been "limited technical discussion."
The letter also warns that it would be "premature and inappropriate" for the city to speculate on any land deals the province has made in the area.
In the last paragraph, PavCo ends by saying the letter "does not offer or imply agreement" with the removal of the viaducts, but the company will work with the city to identify solutions.
Among its concerns are how the removal would affect access to B.C. Place, soil remediation, and First Nations consultation.
Robertson said city staff had done "extraordinary work" to examine the technical aspects, and had discussed them with PavCo.
"It'll be a big transformation, and our staff have been working really hard to make sure we get all these details right," said Robertson.
"There's ongoing work that we need to do with the province going forward now that the decision is made."
Council's decision included $21 million for city staff to continue working towards a plan over the next 18 months for the removal of the viaducts.
Shortly after council voted to remove the viaducts, Robertson called the plan a "once-in-a-generation city-building opportunity."
The city's vote is no surprise; it's spent years mulling a plan to tear down the vestigial highways and replace them with condos, parks, and at-grade streets.
With files from Richard Zussman