British Columbia

Burrard Bridge reconfiguration complete with heritage lighting and fewer vehicle lanes

Commuters have one more major arterial route in and out of Vancouver's downtown corridor after construction and improvements wrap on 85-year-old bridge.

City made efforts to match, restore and preserve heritage style of 1930s landmark

Mayor Gregor Robertson reopened the bridge Saturday after more than a year of construction. (David Horemans/CBC)

Vancouver's iconic Burrard Bridge has fully re-opened after more than a year of construction that saw the arterial corridor torn up and reconfigured at a cost of $35 million.

The bridge remained mostly open throughout construction, with reduced lanes and sometimes lengthy delays — especially for motorists.

The art-deco style bridge's life has spanned 85 years and a number of configurations, with the most recent designed to accommodate active forms of transportation while reducing the number of vehicle lanes from five to four.

Mayor Gregor Robertson opened the bridge Saturday afternoon after acknowledging the traditional territory that it was built on top of in the 1930s.

"The south end of the bridge is actually right on top of what was the village of Sen̓áḵw, where Musqueum, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh people lived for thousands of years," Robertson said. 

Heritage pieces restored

Some pieces of the landmark have been replaced, including sidewalks and lighting fixtures, while parts of the structure, such as heritage handrails, have been restored.

When the bridge was evaluated by the heritage registrar in 1986, it received 95 points out of a possible 100 because it was missing its original light fixtures, according to Donald Luxton, a heritage planning consultant who worked on the bridge.

"I guess we're at 100 now," he said of the newly refurbished heritage lamp posts lining the pedestrian walkways for the first time since the 1970s.

Pedestrians will once again be welcomed to the east sidewalk, which many chose to use despite it being a dedicated bike lane in recent years.

Major changes on the downtown end of the bridge include new cycling turning boxes, vehicle turning lanes and protection for pedestrians and cyclists in the intersection.

Part of the bridge has been widened to accommodate a second right-turn lane onto Pacific Street, and right-hand turning lanes were added to allow vehicles to more easily flow onto the bridge when travelling eastbound on Pacific. 

The art deco Burrard Street Bridge was constructed in the early 1930's. The city made efforts to ensure the concrete barriers that separate vehicles from cycling lanes were designed to match the heritage style. (Matthieu Persan/Simon Desrochers)

Robertson thanked commuters for their patience during the "long and intense construction period."

"The work is done now so the bridge will be even more functional than it has ever been before," he said. 

The project faced opposition when residents recently called for the removal of separated bike lanes. The city maintained the project was necessary to improve safety on the bridge.

One member of the public shouted "Close the bike lanes" while Robertson was speaking to the crowd on Saturday.

The plan, approved two years ago, included additional sewer and water upgrades on both ends of the bridge, which the city said were estimated to cost an additional $23 million — bringing the project's total to $58 million.