Vision rolls dice on Burrard Bridge lane closures

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.

Reimer emits 3.14 tonnes of emissions attending enviro conference in Bogota
Hypocrisy on free speech a sign of arrogant government

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  • Well, with the construction on Cambie 27,000 drivers switched to Granville and 6,600 switched to Burrard. This shows that both there is plenty of capacity on the bridges over False Creek and that people are willing to go to another bridge. The Canada Line will open up by fall further reducing traffic downtown.
    Also don’t forget that areas in the west side and downtown have some of the highest levels of cycling and walking commuting in North America. This is sure to increase during the trial especially if they go with the two lane option.
    The biggest problem with the bridges are not the number of lanes anyway, it is the capacity of the intersections on both sides. Bottom line, especially with the communications campaign to ensure people know about the trial, the after a week or so, people will adjust and traffic will be back to normal.
    Last of all, it is a safety issue, lets not forget. Already several people have been knocked off the sidewalk into traffic and two have be hurt badly. One sued and the city settled for a rumoured several hundred thousand dollars. If anyone else gets injured, the city will be shelling out big bucks.

  • Desmond Bliek

    The key to how the Burrard Bridge trial goes isn’t so much the lanes on the bridge, but how they deal with the intersections on either side, which are the real bottlenecks. Even if the bridge had ten vehicle lanes, you’d still have to stop at Cornwall or Pacific.
    Take a look at Vanoc’s request/ultimatum for Olympic Lanes and notice how they merely want access TO the Stanley Park Causeway and the Lion’s Gate Bridge, but once they’re into the Park, they don’t need their own lane, because the bridge isn’t the problem – accessing it is.
    Traffic’ll be fine on Burrard, it’ll just be squeezed into four or five lanes while it waits for the light to change at Cornwall or Pacific, instead of spreading out into the current six lanes. The queue (which doesn’t exist for 22 of 24 hours) might appear to be a touch longer, but the actual delays are likely to be insignificant; but it all depends on how the intersections are handled.
    Hopefully more people will feel comfortable enough to ride their bikes across it and pedestrians won’t have to deal with cyclists whizzing past any more, and drivers, though they’ll be a little further back waiting for the light to change, will probably still make it through on the same light cycle they do now.

  • Ron

    Arguments against a trial lose all their wind if traffic congestion does not occur. Will motorists really keep bitching when nothing changes in the length of their commute? Or will they finally eat their words and admit they were wrong to put cyclists and pedestrians at risk for so many years?
    During the last trial, as all opponents are quick to forget, traffic returned to a noraml pattern after just a few days. The same will happen this time. Quit your griping.

  • Fred

    Hey it could be worse. The Greenie horde running City Hall could have decided to “un-pave paradise, put up a community garden” (Sorry Joan) with all the lanes.
    Grow food, stop global warming and screw drivers, all in one easy plan.

  • Chris Keam

    Once the lanes are in and people are aware of it, they will adjust their driving habits when necessary and simply head down the road a few blocks to Granville.
    Once people have adjusted to the new layout, the congestion is unlikely to add up to much more delay for the average motorist than having to sit through red light. I think most people would agree an additional minute or two in traffic once in a while is a fair trade-off to make the bridge safer for pedestrians and give families the ability to get to kid-friendly places such as the Aquatic Centre and Stanley Park without having to bike all the way around to Cambie or Science World to get to the north side of False Creek. The additional time and distance effectively prevents many cycling-ready families from being able to use these facilities without getting in their car.
    People the world over bike to work in suits and dresses and do so in all kinds of weather. It doesn’t rain in London? or the Netherlands? Or Japan? Please, if you have a reasonable objection, let’s hear it, but the wailing and gnashing of teeth over non-issues that merely require a slight attitude adjustment and a willingness to be a part of the solution is truly a disservice to our kids and the future of our city. Just this once, let’s make the brave choice and demonstrate a real commitment to progress. Start the two lane trial. End the debate.

  • Eric

    How is “grow food, stop global warming and screw drivers [ha, ha!]” bad?
    Sounds like a decent plan to me, albeit, drivers need not be screwed, but we could all use less of them, especially around city cores.

  • Yeah, drivers biggest problem is other drivers. The less that are on the road, the less congestion, the fewer crashes, the less road rage. I feel sorry for people that are stuck on the road with all the bad drivers.

  • Sharon Townsend

    head over to Granville. well, the bridge may have the capacity for more cars but the feeder roads don’t. If Hemlock and Fir could be used more effectively there may be a chance but right now Granville is beyond capacity with 80,000 cars a day and a gazillion buses trying to keep a schedule.
    This is not a case of NIMBY, this is a case of safety and capacity.

  • Sandra Chamberlain-Snider

    Interesting as the debate may be about closing the lanes, I am drawn to Clr Deal’s rhetoric about saving money. Saying the public “saved” money by not constructing outriggers for cyclists is akin to saying I saved money because I didnt buy that Porsche for $150,000.
    If public safety really is the issue, then people would accept the cost of Burrard outrigger renovation to keep all three groups of bridge users separate and safe.
    I hope they at least keep the trial going into November, when a solid month of rain might see emptier bike lanes and more congested car lanes.

  • Bob Macdonald

    Closing lanes on any bridge in Vancouver to vehicle traffic is insane. Why not just restrict peds to one side and cyclists to the other?
    Leave bridge traffic lanes alone and keep your election promise of housing the homeless.

  • Rob Wynen

    Interesting comment by Sandra Chamberlain-Snider, hoping the trial goes into November so traffic will jam up the bridge. Having been involved in this debate, one the NPA couldn’t solve for the majority of that time, I have seen a number of these comments. These individuals don’t want to see success, they want to see failure. No amount of convincing will change their opinion, they are not interested in educating themselves on the issue and have absolutely no care for others who are put in danger. Their world resolves around their needs and they just can’t understand or accept that the world shouldn’t resolve around their needs. Who cares if a bunch of cyclists get hurt, who cares about city tax payers not having to fork out 65 million for the rediculous widening scheme, who cares about anyone but me.

  • Sandra Chamberlain-Snider

    To clarify, Rob, setting aside human nature for a moment, which I agree is inherently selfish.
    My comment was directed to Clr Deal’s default position, the reason a politician always uses not to do something, we will “save” money. Well I could “save” money as well in my personal life, but my life and my family’s life could well come to harm if I didnt spend on their welfare. Thus the bridge. The renovation is safer, just like the two lane closure would be safer than one closure. To me, success would incorporate the safest option.

  • Lynn

    The caption under the photo is “Vancouver drivers maneuver their way on to the new restricted Burrard Street Bridge”, the picture is not from the Burrard street bridge, or anywhere in Vancouver for that matter. Another example of trying to build the hype.