A long-planned project to repave and restripe Columbia Street in west Vancouver is finally underway, with crews expected to wrap up the first phase of their work around mid-July.
The project’s contractor, Granite Construction, began the project on June 21 by removing a traffic circle at the corner of 24th Street. Crews then got to work grinding off the top few inches of existing pavement starting at Mill Plain Boulevard and stretching north to 45th Street.
The actual paving work — originally scheduled to start June 28 but postponed by a day due to the region’s record-shattering heat wave — is underway.
“The southbound lane of Columbia Street has been paved from 45th Street to Mill Plain Boulevard. The city’s contractor is now in the process of paving the northbound lane,” Loretta Callahan, spokeswoman for Vancouver’s Public Works Department, explained in an email. “This work is currently expected to be completed by the end of next week (July 16), weather and construction conditions allowing.”
Once the paving work is completed, Granite Construction will install six speed tables along the street to slow traffic.
In late July, crews will also complete the first phase of the project by applying a microsurfacing treatment to the new roadway.
“Microsurfacing on Columbia Street will be done at night to help alleviate traffic impacts. Microsurfacing is a quick-setting liquid application, just one of several preservation treatments the city uses to seal and extend the life of streets,” Callahan wrote. “The application will continue to cure over time, and the surface will continue to become smoother.”
For a street-paving project, the Columbia Street restoration was unusually controversial. The project was the subject of intense debate at City Hall among residents, staff and city councilors between 2018 and 2020.
The conversation hinged on whether the road repair project should include the installation of dedicated bike lanes. An analysis of Vancouver’s transportation systems indicated that creating a dedicated north-south route for cyclists downtown would cut down on accidents. However, residents of the dense residential and business corridor worried about losing the 400 street parking spaces needed to make room for the lanes.
The Vancouver City Council originally elected to move forward with the restriping project in February 2020 but had to shelve it almost immediately due to projected COVID-19 budget shortfalls.
It quietly revived the project in May, awarding the $1.48 million paving contract to Vancouver-based Granite Construction with little fanfare.
The restriping work will begin after the microsurfacing treatment is complete. It will be followed up with installation of other safety features, including low-profile separators between bike and vehicle lanes, traffic signals that allow pedestrians more time to cross intersections and new streetlights.