As the City of Vancouver prepares for a future without the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts, staff are considering options to divert traffic from residential areas in Strathcona, but exactly where to put a new road through the neighbourhood has been contentious.

The city took the opportunity to try a new kind of public engagement, assembling a panel of citizens to meet eight times and explore the different options.

"It's very unusual, actually. This is really a first kind of go at this for the city," said city manager of civic engagement Amanda Gibbs.

Many of the panelists were at City Hall Wednesday night when their recommendation was presented to council.

"I live in Olympic Village and I spend a lot of my time in Stratchcona," said Parveen Rai. "So whatever arterial route is determined, going from East Vancouver into the downtown core does affect my day to day."

Trying to balance the needs of neighbourhood residents, produce waerehouses along Malkin Avenue, and a yet-to-be-constructed new St Paul’s Hospital, proved challenging.

To assemble the panel members, the city first sent out 11,000 invitations to citizens asking them to apply.

Two hundred expressed interest and from that pool the 42 panelists were selected.

"I thought this would be a great way to become part of a process that is very important," said Peter Borkowicz.

In the end, the panel presented a route the city hadn’t even included for consideration.

It begins at Prior near Main Street, angling southeast towards Trillium Park, before connecting to National Avenue and continuing east with an overpass over the railyard connecting to Charles Street and Clark Drive.

City staff will now study that recommendation before presenting what it thinks is the best route to council in the fall.

Although neither city staff or council is bound by the panel’s choice, and the final route could be different than what they chose, panelists feel strongly the city should use this style of consultation for more projects going forward.

"Absolutely, I think it's really important to hear the voices of different people, young, old, business owners, residents, students, and I think that's where you really truly get democracy," said Rai.