2004 saw no resolution to the status of the Burrard Bridge, and it continues to be of primary concern to HVS.
Completed in 1932 to provide a high-level crossing to the western neighbourhoods, the bridge is a triumph of civic architecture and a key gateway structure.
Architects Sharp and Thompson, conscious of the bridge’s ceremonial ‘gateway’ function, embellished the utilitarian steel superstructure with imposing concrete towers, torch-like entrance-pylons, and art deco sculptural details. Unifying the parts are heavy concrete railings, originally topped by decorative street lamps.
Fast forward to 2002: in order to facilitate and encourage cyclist and pedestrian use, the previous City Council considered – at a projected cost of $10 million – demolition of the concrete railings and the addition of ‘outrigger’ sidewalks. HV was dismayed at the possibility: without the original railings, the bridge would lose its strong edges, its architectural features would be isolated, and the proposed outrigger structures would radically alter its external appearance. After a 2-year hiatus in discussion, punctuated by a municipal election, Burrard Bridge reappeared on the radar screen in spring 2004.
First, the present Council approved the City’s participation in the Canada-BC Infrastructure Program Seismic Upgrading Project, thereby adding $2.5 million to the $2 million already committed to seismic work. Also, in a potentially positive move, Council directed staff to return in fall 2004 with up to four options for improving the bridge for pedestrians and cyclists. Somewhat encouraging were Council’s instructions to give a higher priority to heritage. The new options have yet to be made public.
For HV, the issues remain the same: how to accommodate increased numbers of cyclists and pedestrians without compromising the heritage architecture and iconic status of the bridge.
One potential solution – which HV has supported – might be closing two lanes of traffic, as this would halve costs and affect heritage less. Other solutions, we believe, also merit consideration – e.g., a new dedicated crossing for pedestrians and cyclists, or dedicated structures retrofitted underneath Granville and/or Burrard bridges.