Vancouver drivers maneuver their way on to the new restricted Burrard Street Bridge
The much anticipated staff report regarding the future of the Burrard Street Bridge is now in and it looks like motorists are going to have to put on their signal light and merge a hard left. The report, first published exclusively on Mayor Meggs’ website, states that approximately $30 million dollars worth of regular maintenance is needed in order to keep the bridge in good operating condition. Despite knowing this, Vision Councillor Heather Deal continues to spin out inaccurate statements claiming that supporting the lane closure will "help save taxpayers $63 million dollars."
According to the report, the temporary lane closure trial will initially cost city taxpayers approximately $1.5 million dollars. If the trial becomes permanent, staff are unsure as to how much it will all cost:
Detailed designs and estimates have not been prepared for permanent lane re-allocation options or for infrastructure repairs only, so the cost estimates for these options are not as well refined.
It appears the option being supported by the Vision majority is to shut down one lane of traffic despite the report stating:
Converting two existing vehicle lanes into bike lanes, and returning the sidewalks to exclusive pedestrian use is the preferred option for optimizing results for cyclist and pedestrians and provides the best opportunity to assess the bi-directional impacts of lane re-allocation on transit, goods movement and general traffic.
You can bet that Vision’s decision to close down lanes, rather than widening the existing sidewalks could well become the defining moment in their three-year mandate. Forget backyard chickens, or Gregor’s garden, this is much more of a political risk than anything else they’ve attempted before.
Restricting traffic on that bridge is bound to rile up a lot of west-side voters. Many of whom voted for Vision Vancouver last November. It will be interesting to see if pragmatic politics will eventually win out over blind ideology on this one. I would venture to guess that if the public makes enough of a stink, you might see Gregor’s gang fold like a bad deck of cards. Something that would surely rile up their countless "sustainability supporters" throughout Vancouver and the United States.
I guess people should just be grateful that to date Mayor Robertson has not acted upon his musings to shut down lanes on the Granville Bridge for bicyclists as well. Here’s what Bill Tieleman thought of his goofy plan:
Robertson also has to stop a tendency to muse about contentious policy issues in public, such as considering a bicycle lane on the Granville Street bridge.
Speaking of the Granville Street Bridge…
Probably the worst double-speak being offered up by Deal relates to her comments that the closure of lanes on Burrard Bridge won’t really have an impact because people can simply use the Granville Street Bridge instead. Excuse me? I thought this was all about saving the environment? How is asking people to drive at least an additional 1-2 kilometres per day in heavy traffic going to reduce carbon emissions?
Vision naively believes the previous lane closure trial failed due to bad communications and not because of the public backlash and gridlock that ensued.
That’s likely why they are spending a whopping $250,000 tax dollars for communications to convince Metro Vancouver drivers why the lane closure is such a good idea. They’ve also set aside $200,000 additional dollars (contingency) they can also allocate toward communications if things get really, really bad.
Rest assured that Laurie Best, Director of Communications and her team have their work cut out for them on the mother of all communication projects. The future of Vision’s electoral success could be riding on whether or not the City’s communications team is able to convince enough west-side voters of the environmental benefits this lane closure will provide. Vancouverites will soon have a lot of time to listen to the happy planet radio ads as they drive in gridlock over the Granville Street Bridge during rush hour.
Strap on your bike helmets folks, I think this lane closure is going to make for one bumpy ride. What do you think? Check out our new online web poll and have your say today.