Who would blink first over the Burrard controversy? Apparently Mayor Robertson.
After July 13th, when you're sitting in Gregor's Gridlock, and you're contemplating whether to dial 311 to register your complaint with the Mayor over his Council's decision to reallocate a Burrard Bridge lane to cyclists, will it make you feel better to know that Hizonner is musing about building another bridge?
Apparently PR flacks in Mayor Robertson's office hope you will. Tonight they let slip that a "conversation" between the Mayor and architect Gregory Henriquez for a $45 million passerelle over False Creek. It would appear that Robertson has blinked in the face of building public dissatisfaction with his No Consultation Council™.
Just last Tuesday morning my CityCaucus.com colleague Daniel sat on the CKNW's Civic Affairs Panel, and got raked over the coals by Vision's Jim Green over NPA plans to spend $30 million on upgrading crumbling railings and surfaces on the 70-year old Burrard Bridge. This money is still in the City's budget, and it will be spent regardless of the political posturing by Vision.
The NPA proposed that the City eventually spend another $30 retrofitting the bridge to accommodate cyclists. No final design for this has been completed, but heritage advocates were not the slightest bit interested in any change to the old concrete railings.
So the NPA proposed spending $30 million for an improved cycling thoroughfare, and now Mayor Robertson is floating a proposal to spend $45 million?
Many pundits including The Province's Mike Smyth think Gregor and Vision Vancouver will cave in to public pressure to end the lane reallocation. Floating this new bridge idea, one that the City can ill afford and will not get built for a long, long time if at all, is clearly a desperate move on the Mayor's part.
We'd all love more funky looking bridges and infrastructure. Henriquez's design is an interesting direction. But how are we supposed to take this idea seriously when no one has been consulted on its real cost or viability? There's no doubt that Engineering staff have been caught flat-footed on this proposal, and you can be certain that there are no funding partners even remotely involved.
And isn't the land around the bridge still subject to an aboriginal land claim? According to a recent staff report, it's one of the significant hurdles to making any change around the Bridge itself.
More than 30 options for improving cycling and pedestrian crossing at the Burrard Bridge location have been explored by the City's engineering department over the past 13 years; all of them have large cost implications or require resolution of significant issues, such as land claims.
There are some who are now predicting that Vision Vancouver is deliberately setting up the Bridge "experiment" to fail. Not only have local businesses not been consulted, the City's prescription for better communications seems to be stuck in neutral.
After getting approval for $250,000 the City's Corporate Communications department headed by Laurie Best has yet to launch any substantial communications, or any signage in the vicinity of the bridge (apart from one lonely 10 ft banner hanging in the middle of the bridge). Here's what the same report above states:
Corporate Communications will issue ... a full-service communications and marketing agency to work with City staff to develop and implement of a comprehensive information campaign...Key elements of the campaign would include (but would not be limited to): Stakeholder/sponsor engagement; Community and media events; Paid media campaigns, and a Web-based campaign.
There are SIX working days left until the lane is closed to cars...have you seen any public notice about this yet?
Stay tuned to CityCaucus.com for continuing information and commentary (including from cycling advocate and former City Councillor Fred Bass) on the Burrard Bridge lane reallocation controversy.
UPDATE: The Mayor admitting he floated this without any consultation of his caucus nor staff, is now suggesting that a "toll" on the passerelle might help to pay for it. CKNW reporter Dan Burritt speaking on the morning program said he and fellow reporters are wondering exactly how that toll might work. "Would they put a chip into peoples' necks?" he asked.