Plans for a new cycling and walking path in the centre of the Granville Bridge have hit a speed bump, after Vancouver city council sent the idea back to staff for revision.
City engineering staff had brought a report to council Wednesday evening recommending that the city begin public consultations on the centre-lane model.
The city has already allocated $25 million for the upgrade in its 2019-2022 capital budget. The new lane is meant to increase safety and accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists, with work meant to coincide with already planned seismic upgrades.
But when presented with the plan on Wednesday, councillors balked at sending the concept for public consultation with the centre-lane model as the only option.
Referencing controversy over the upgrades to the Burrard Bridge, Non-Partisan Association (NPA) Coun. Melissa De Genova said she didn’t want the public to get the impression that it was being offered a “done deal.”
“As we continue to consider projects moving towards the city wide plan,” she said, “it’s important that we do engage people.”
“If that means delaying the project and people feel included, I’d rather do that than move forward with perhaps plans that I think could be improved by including more consultation options.”
NPA Coun. Colleen Hardwick expressed concerns about the cost of the project, asking engineering staff whether there were a continuum of options that could be presented to the public other than the “full meal deal,” or whether the public was being asked if it even wanted the upgrade.
“My concern is not that we don’t just treat this as we’re going to put it down the middle or on the sides and we’re going to spend another $25 million, but rather we get the public to determine whether this is something they want to do,” she said.
City of Vancouver general manager of engineering Jerry Dobrovolny said a spectrum of upgrade options could be presented, but that the city wouldn’t recommend doing nothing as a choice.
“What we’re presenting is a way to increase walking, increase cycling, increasing an existing safety hazard on the bridge,” he said.
“Doing nothing wouldn’t achieve any of those. People may tell us they prefer to do nothing, but the reasons for us to go out to the public are to say, ‘Here are the challenges with the existing structure that we hope to overcome.’”
After discussion, council voted on a replacement motion by Green Coun. Pete Fry that kicked the upgrade plans back to city staff, asking them to present alternative options including paths on the east or west sides of the bridge, the possibility of fencing or netting, as well as ballpark cost estimates for alternatives.
“The idea here is really to tease out some of the other options,” said Fry.
“I do have some concerns over maybe the side options, the notion that perhaps [a proposed elevator to Granville Island] doesn’t work in the centre span and we have to cross the road anyway, so think it would be nice to see some other options and have staff report back to us before we take it to the public of more fullsome consultations.”
While staff weren’t given a timeline to report back to council with alternatives, Dobrovolny said the revision would likely delay rollout plans for bridge upgrades.
The city had initially hoped to have public consultations wrapped by summer, with a final proposal ready for council in July. With revisions, Dobrovolny said that plan would now likely come to council in the fall.
The new path for the Granville Bridge is envisioned as a part of the city’s Transportation 2040 plan, which calls for eliminating gaps in the city’s walking and cycling network, along with improvements to the bridges across False Creek.
According the the city, the city’s eight car lanes are significantly under capacity, while the bridge remains “one of the most glaring barriers in Vancouver’s pedestrian and cycling networks.”
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