British Columbia

Granville Bridge re-design could reduce vehicle lanes for central greenway

Staff at the City of Vancouver are recommending public consultations begin on the plans for an accessible path for bikers, walkers and other users in the centre of the Granville Bridge.

City staff are recommending the city start public consultations on the downtown bridge's re-design

The City of Vancouver has begun exploring a greenway on the Granville Street Bridge. (City of Vancouver)

Plans for a new greener, more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly Granville Bridge are closer to fruition as a report on its purported redesign will be presented to Vancouver city council within a week.

The report, which calls for council to start public engagement on the redesign, describes current plans to redesign the eight-lane bridge which spans False Creek.

The redesign, which includes seismic upgrades on the bridge, is part of the city's overall Transportation 2040 plan, which is its long-range transportation plan. The plan calls for two-thirds of all trips in the city to be made by walking, cycling, and transit by 2040. 

All three False Creek bridges were slated for improvements for cyclists and pedestrians. The Burrard Bridge was improved in 2017, and the Cambie Street had improvements in 2018.

The Granville Bridge is the last of three bridges to be addressed, and $25 million has been earmarked for the project.

Vehicle lanes removed 

The main change to the bridge identified by the report would be reducing the number of vehicle lanes and creating a central greenway. The report says up to four vehicle lanes could be removed and there would still be enough capacity to accommodate motor vehicle traffic. 

Lon LaClaire, director of transportation for the City of Vancouver, said the current plan is to remove only two of the lanes for the greenway.

"It's possible to operate the bridge with as few as four lanes and have no traffic impact just because of the nature of the connection at either end, but certainly that's not necessary," LaClaire​ said.

"At this point, the concept we want to bring out to the public is a concept that brings the traffic lanes from eight to six."

Car traffic taken into account

The report says the bridge, built in 1954, was "designed to connect to high-speed, high-volume freeways that were never built." Despite having eight lanes, the bridge has similar traffic volume to Burrard Bridge, which has half the number of vehicle lanes. 

The report goes on to say that even if every single street feeding into the bridge was full, the bridge itself "would be relatively empty."

At the same time, the bridge is described as "one of the most glaring barriers in Vancouver's pedestrian and cycling networks."

For pedestrians, the report describes sidewalks on the bridge as narrow and uncomfortable with no buffer from high-speed traffic. Cars travel at high speeds and there are no cycling connections over the bridge. 

"It is certainly not what you would expect in terms of comfort for pedestrians," LaClaire said. 

One of the criticisms of the Granville Bridge is that pedestrian walkways are narrow and exposed to traffic. (Cory Correia/CBC News)

'Safe and comfortable'

The report says a central path would have a physical buffer from vehicle traffic and be elevated above the remaining motor vehicle traffic lanes to ensure "a safe and comfortable experience" with unique views.

According to the report, other ideas to create a more pedestrian-friendly bridge were considered like increasing the size of the existing sidewalks or creating an additional structure below or beside the bridge deck. 

Creating an additional structure was estimated to be too costly, and expanding the existing sidewalks — like what was done on the Cambie and Burrard bridges — was also difficult given the unique structural design of the Granville Bridge.

"[It is] challenged by having to cross the ramps at both ends of the bridge, as well as the loops at the north end, all of which make a safe, comfortable, and accessible path difficult to achieve," the report said.

Other features

The report is proposing public consultations begin on the design of the bridge. A refined concept would be proposed to city council in July 2019. 

Detailed design work for the bridge would begin in September 2019. 

The report will be presented at the Jan. 30 policy and strategic priorities meeting

Clarifications

  • A previous version of this story said up to four lanes could be removed for the greenway based on the report. City staff have since clarified that the current plan being presented calls for the removal of two lanes.
    Jan 25, 2019 4:26 PM PT

With files from On the Coast

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