So what does the City's viaduct removal plan say about traffic calming on Prior Street?
Unfortunately for Strathcona - not a lot. In fact, the map illustration shows a new six-lane Prior Street extension that connects to Main Street, Quebec Street and a new expanded six-lane Pacific Boulevard ends before Gore - with no details about what happens to those six lanes of traffic east of Main. Prior street is identified as the "direct east-west link to the downtown for commuter vehicles and large goods-movement trucks" *.
The above illustration has been adapted illustrated for clarity. It details the new Prior Street extension as outlined in the City proposal's draft street geometric / arial photo (pictured top). Traffic planning typically considers the path of least resistance, apparently drivers prefer not to turn if presented an option. By that token it would appear that Pacific Boulevard traffic is directed to/from Prior St - as it is a more direct route. This might be evidenced by the statement on page 8 of the City's document "Connecting Georgia to New Pacific to Prior/ Venables preserves essential east-west capacity in and out of the Downtown as well as goods movement routing."
Ostensibly, the City's development of Prior and extension to Pacific is part of a larger Eastern Core Strategy which offers "In the future, the new Pacific Boulevard is designed to connect to Malkin Avenue allowing an opportunity to downgrade Prior/Venables to a local street." HOWEVER, there is no timeline or commitment for such a strategy which would theoretically be subject to changing political and development directions. Implementation of an Eastern Core Strategy could be years if not decades away. The City does have a number of other options at it's disposal that do not involve increasing traffic on Prior.
Why Should We Care?The single greatest impact of the viaducts on Strathcona is and always has been the intolerable level of traffic it directs onto Prior Street.
- Prior Street divides our community and separates us from our park and community gardens. Homes and seniors' residences to the South of Prior are separated from shopping and recreation in Strathcona and Chinatown.
- Prior Street poses a significant long term and short term safety and health risk to residents of Strathcona. Red-light-running is common. High levels of commuter and truck traffic mean residents living on Prior Street are subjected to increased traffic pollutants and noise. According to the California Department of Public Health People who live close to busy roads may be at higher risk for exposure to traffic pollutants. Health risks associated with exposure to traffic pollutants (specifically diesel particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds) include increased rates of cancer, asthma, heart disease, lung inflammation, decreased mental alertness, allergies and premature death. The California Department of Public Health defines a busy road as having more than 10,000 vehicles drive on it each day. According to the most recent City of Vancouver traffic counts available (VanMap: 400 block Prior, April 3, 2008) Prior Street handles 19,746 vehicles per day.
- The City has shamelessly invoked and exploited Strathcona's historic fight to stop the city planners and developers who would have bulldozed our community forty years ago. We owe it to those who came before us, and to future generations who will come after us to to preserve the hard-fought for neighbourhood we love.
Council will be voting on the viaduct removal plan in July.
We have a limited window of opportunity to send a loud and very clear message that we demand traffic calming on Prior Street.