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2013 Statement On Viaducts Removal and Prior Street Calming

On February 6th, 2013 Strathcona residents and other attendees at the City of Vancouver's presentation for Viaducts Removal where disappointed to learn the 'new' plan had no remediation of the 'old' plan or 40 year legacy of dumping highway traffic onto a residential street. The as-yet unapproved City plan proposes to connect a new expanded six-lane Pacific Boulevard (replacement for Viaducts traffic and new arterial for False Creek and Yaletown) to Prior Street.

City staff maintain that the area east of Gore is "too complicated" to include in any Viaducts Removal Plan. Residents maintain that in the absence of an Eastern Core Strategy or even a Road Safety Audit, the plan as proposed is reckless. Within 48 hours of the staff presentation Prior Street saw three significant traffic accidents {LINK), including at least one fatality.

In an unprecedented show of cooperation, neighbouring affected communities have united to demand that the following traffic calming measures be conditions of any Viaducts Removal plan.

Vancouver City Council is set to vote on viaducts removal as early as March 2013.

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February 26, 2013

Dear Mayor Robertson:

Regarding: City Proposal for Viaduct Removal

Strathcona and adjacent neighbourhoods are excited about the City's proposal to remove the Viaducts in order to utilize the lands underneath to bring opportunity for new, beneficial developments for Vancouver. We are especially supportive of the removal of the 40 year traffic affliction on Prior / Venables brought on by the Viaducts and the subsequent returning of Prior Street to the neighbourhood street it was designed to be. We were thus disappointed that the City’s proposal to remove the Viaducts does not include important planning east of Gore Avenue; makes no overture to correct the injustice of traffic on Prior / Venables; and does not include your directives to provide traffic relief to Strathcona and adjacent neighbourhoods.

The community's concern over the proposal resulted in a number of grass-roots protests over the summer, and culminated in your very specific recommendations that staff come back with a plan that addressed our concerns.

You can imagine our surprise, when at a well-attended community meeting on February 6th, some six months after your directives were given, that staff presented the exact same plan for removing the Viaducts and maintaining Prior / Venables as the major east west connector. To add fuel to the fire, within 48 hours of staff's presentation, Prior / Venables saw three separate and serious accidents including a pedestrian struck, a car plow into the side of a house, and a street racing fatality. We now have a very angry community who are urging us to step up protest efforts in advance of staff's presentation to Council in March. It is felt that the City clearly does not take our concern seriously.

While we appreciate the return of limited-hours parking on Prior Street and the extension of some of the pedestrian crossing times, these were understood as only first steps, and in light of recent events, these measures are clearly inadequate. We feel the disappointingly unrevised Viaducts removal proposal falls short of your directives regarding Prior Street, specifically: "immediate improvements are warranted, reinstating the parking being one of them, looking at traffic calming options like speed bumps is another".

To be blunt: staff's promise of theoretical reductions in traffic volumes once Prior / Venables is aligned with a new six-lane Pacific is not acceptable, and proceeding with the removal of the Viaducts without an Eastern Core Strategy is reckless. We need a guaranteed strategy for traffic calming Prior Street to be formally added to the Viaducts removal plan in order for us to support it.

Specifically, our support for Viaducts removal is conditional upon:

1. Establish a 30 kilometre zone on Prior through residential Strathcona.
2. Reduce Prior to two lanes of traffic flow, through either full time parking or a separated bike lane
3. Move truck traffic to Malkin / National; facilitate additional flow by moving one of Malkin's two lanes of 24 hour dedicated parking to Prior.
4. Physically limit the six lanes of Pacific and/or Prior east of Quebec, until such a time as an Eastern Core strategy is developed.
5. Dedicate immediate resources to the development of an Eastern Core Strategy; monitor and consult with affected communities before, during and after Viaducts removal.

A community meeting is scheduled for March 6th to discuss a major protest and further action before Council's vote on the Viaducts. Your response to this letter would be crucial to present at this meeting in order to determine whether community action is required.

We very much appreciate your support and prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

PeteFry - Chair, Strathcona Residents Association,
Strathcona Residents Association Executive Council,
Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council,
Strathcona School Parent Advisory Committee
Strathcona Business Improvement Association
False Creek Residents Association,
Ray-Cam Co-Operative Centre