City staff will deliver a report to council before it breaks in August on whether to tear down the Dusmuir and Georgia viaducts.
Vision Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs told a forum on the viaducts at Simon Fraser University's Harbour Centre campus May 17 that "we'll find out whether or not we're going to go ahead with the viaducts, or whether we'll plan for the future without them."
He added, "We're very close to a historic decision."
The debate on whether to keep, demolish, or modify the city's nearly 40-year-old elevated viaducts has been going on since 2009, when Meggs passed a motion to have city staff study the possibility of tearing down the viaducts.
The closure of the viaducts during the 2010 Winter Olympics was another sign that maybe the city could live without them. Meggs told the forum, organized by SFU as part of its City conversations series, that despite the closure, traffic into downtown was not as bad as many had predicted.
"We saw much larger increases into the downtown core than people thought was possible with very few traffic jams," he said. "People did make the switch to transit and other modes of transportation, so it can be done."
But residents of the Strathcona neighbourhood remember the Olympic experience differently.
"I had traffic pretty much 24/7 on my street," said Frank Ducote, an urban designer who lives on Abbott Street and made a presentation at the forum.
Teresa Vandertuin had a similar experience.
"As soon as the viaduct closed, we had all of the traffic going down Pender during the Olympics. We were impacted very heavily."
Ducote said that the argument that traffic was unaffected during the Olympics is a myth. He said there would need to be an extensive upgrade of infrastructure before any removal work could begin on the viaducts. He favours combining Expo and Pacific boulevards into one larger avenue.
Ducote also said it was overly optimistic to think the 40,000 daily car trips across the viaducts would be replaced by modes like transit and cycling.
The city has been weighing the options. Last winter, the city held a public ideas contest for a re-envisioned Northeast False Creek area. One submission that called for the removal of the viaduct suggested connecting Georgia and a realigned Pacific boulevard between B.C. Place and Rogers Arena.
Others argued that the viaducts could be turned into green space, like New York's High Line Park.
Meggs couldn't give any details on what city staff would propose.
"I think inevitably the city staff proposals will be more grounded in pragmatic considerations," he said.
The Northeast False Creek area, which includes B.C. Place, the viaducts, and a large lot owned by Concord Pacific, is one of the last major undeveloped tracts of real estate in the downtown peninsula. Area residents say they have been waiting for years for Concord to convert a vacant lot near Rogers Arena into a park.
The last council meeting of the summer is July 25.