Vancouver Council approves first phase of Granville Bridge Connector project

VANCOUVER City Council has approved a budget and phased plan for building the new Granville Bridge Connector (GBC) and Drake Street Improvements. This will create a safe, accessible, comfortable walking and cycling connection across the Granville Bridge and is essential for accommodating the growing number of people living, working, and playing in the city and region, and helping the City meet its Climate Emergency Response transportation targets.

Due to the financial pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic, Council voted to reduce funding for the first phase of GBC design and construction to $12.5 million, narrowing the scope to focus first on much-needed pedestrian and cycling safety and accessibility improvements to the bridge. Council’s decision included an amendment calling for the prioritization of means prevention measures on the bridge. The City’s Capital Budget had previously earmarked $25 million for the first phase.

“The pressures on the City’s budget due to the effect of the COVID pandemic are substantial and yet the improvements to the Granville Bridge and Drake Street identified in this first phase are critical to Vancouver,” said Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart. “Providing safe, sustainable, and accessible ways to cross the bridge is essential, particularly in light of a growing city and region facing a climate crisis.”

Granville Bridge was designed to connect to high-speed, high-volume freeways that were never built. The freeway-style design presents significant safety and accessibility challenges, including narrow and uncomfortable sidewalks and barriers to people using mobility aids. The first phase of construction will be an interim design that:

* creates safe and accessible walking and cycling paths on the west side of the bridge by reallocating two of the eight existing traffic lanes, adding a concrete barrier to provide protection from motor traffic, and adding signals to the crosswalks at the Fir and Howe ramps;

* connects with the Arbutus Greenway on the south side of the bridge via modifications to the loop at Granville Street and 5th Avenue, a new traffic signal at 5th Avenue and Fir Street, and wayfinding signage; and

* connects with the downtown cycling network via a new protected bike lane on Drake Sreet between Hornby Street and Pacific Boulevard, which is achieved by converting Drake Street to one-way for vehicle traffic from Hornby Street to Hamilton Street.

In 2016, 18,000 residents and 17,000 jobs were within a five-minute walk of Granville Bridge and 90,000 residents and 125,000 jobs were within a five-minute bike ride. Despite being a direct route to and from downtown for many, few people use the bridge’s sidewalks or bike or because they feel unsafe and uncomfortable or because it is not accessible.

As the City grows, even more people will live and work within easy walking and cycling distance of the bridge. Once the Granville Bridge Connector is completed, all three False Creek bridges will offer safe and accessible options for walking, rolling, and biking to and from downtown.