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Construction on plan to renew aging Gastown infrastructure begins



Construction on plan to renew aging Gastown infrastructure begins

Earlier this year, council approved the plan to begin road improvements along Water Street from Maple Tree Square to Cambie Street

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Vancouver’s plan to renew and revitalize Gastown will begin next week with repairs to Maple Street Square, city staff said Thursday.

Overall, $10 million has set aside for the improvements. This includes $4.5 million for sidewalk repairs and upgrades to Trounce Alley, $5.5. million for the public spaces plan, and $1.1 million for the Water Street pedestrian zone pilot project.

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The repair work includes removing damaged brick pavers and asphalt patches in the roadway and replacing them with new brick pavers. City staff say the interim repairs will make the street safer and easier to use while they work toward a permanent design for the area as part of the Gastown public spaces plan.

During construction from March to June and then the Water Street pedestrian zone pilot from July to August, Maple Tree Square will be closed to vehicles. Local vehicle access for residents and businesses will be maintained, staff say, including deliveries and access for visitors and customers. Access will also be maintained for emergency vehicles for all except short periods during construction.

During a technical briefing Thursday, Rachel Magnusson, the city’s senior branch manager of street activities, said the plan for the pilot is to have two central car-free blocks, including the Richards Street to Cambie Street block where the steam clock is located and Maple Street Square. Magnusson said these car free zones will “act as gateways to the community.”

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“We have quite an extensive monitoring and engagement plan that we’ll be rolling out throughout the pilot to learn as much as possible from it … how people are using the street, why are they coming there, what are they doing there, what do they want to see? That’s going to be really important to informing the future,” she said.

Construction in Maple Street Square next week will involve removal of loose and broken pavers and removal of the concrete substructure on Water Street through the square, said Eric Mital, the city’s director of streets.

Paul Storer, the city’s director of transportation, said the goal is to make sure that everyone who needs to get to Gastown will be able to do so during construction.

He said drivers heading westbound on Powell Street won’t be able to continue through the intersection at Main Street. So they are planning a second left turn which will allow more vehicles to turn left onto Main Street.

Columbia Street between Hastings and Powell will become a two-way street to allow more convenient access into or out of the eastern part of Gastown, east of Carroll, he said.

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Here is a breakdown of traffic changes:

• Vehicles cannot travel through Maple Tree Square, but pedestrian and cycling access will be retained.

• Traffic detours will be in place at Powell Street and Main Street.

• Westbound through-traffic on Powell Street will not be allowed to continue past Main Street. All traffic will need to turn right or left at Main Street.

• Powell Street between Columbia Street and Harbour Light Alley will be local access only.

• Alexander Street, east of Maple Tree Square, will be made two-way. Vehicle access will not be allowed through Maple Tree Square.

• Water Street, west of Maple Tree Square, will be local access only.

• Columbia Street will be converted to a two-way street between Powell Street and Hastings Street. City staff will monitor Columbia Street throughout the duration of construction and the Water Street pedestrian pilot to assess whether it remains a two-way street for a longer period.

• Westbound #50 buses will be detoured off Water Street and onto Hastings Street. Buses will have a new temporary stop at a nearby location at Waterfront Station.

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Earlier this month, council approved the plan to begin road improvements along Water Street from Maple Tree Square to Cambie Street. Maple Tree Square is where Water, Carrall, Alexander and Powell streets meet.

Preparation works will include repaving a large section of Water Street with bricks.

During the pedestrian zone pilot, sections of Water Street will be closed to vehicles to allow for public seating, community activations, expanded patios, merchandise displays, art installations, special events and cycling.

With files from David Carrigg

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