Vancouver works to avoid Olympic traffic jams
Keeping the city of Vancouver moving during the 2010 Winter Olympics will mean cutting regular traffic by as much as 35 per cent, Games officials said Tuesday as they released a draft traffic management plan.
Priority lanes for Olympic vehicles, pedestrian-only roads and parking restrictions are some of the solutions planners will shop around to local business over the next few days.
"It's important for us to really minimize the impact of Games-related activity," said Dale Bracewell, director of Olympic transportation for the city of Vancouver.
"Certainly the city needs to make sure we have a successful transportation system that supports athletes to be able to get reliably to the venues as we're hosting the world but at the same time we want to make sure it works for our residents."
There will also be a security cordon around downtown Vancouver venues, where hockey and the opening and closing ceremonies will take place, and those areas will be completely closed to the public.
The effect on business is a concern, said Charles Gauthier, the executive director of the Downtown Business Improvement Association.
"Most of our members are office tenants and they'll benefit from the Games in a very indirect way and some may not benefit directly, so we have to make sure we take that interest at heart," he said.
"It will be very interesting to hear how they propose to deliver all this plan."
Sensitive to the burden the Games will place on city traffic, Olympic organizers issued a call to business owners a few weeks ago to consider amending their operating hours or letting staff take vacation during the Games to ease the pressure.
Four thousand athletes, 10,000 reporters and a quarter million visitors are expected to descend upon Vancouver for the Games.
Their traffic will reduce the capacity of downtown streets to handle cars coming from the east by as much as 50 per cent, the city said.
Vancouver's downtown core is accessible by a number of bridges, and even the smallest incident can cause hours of gridlock.
The draft plan doesn't include options for routing traffic onto the bridges to the north, which connect Vancouver to the route north to Whistler, B.C., and the mountain venues for the Games.
Those are controlled by the provincial ministry of transportation.
A spokesman for the ministry said it hadn't yet been decided how traffic would be handled during the Olympics and there was no plan in place for a public consultation process similar to the one currently underway in Vancouver.
Another headache for organizers is the Sea-to-Sky highway between Vancouver and Whistler, which was closed by a rock slide earlier this year.
Vancouver organizers have said that they aren't planning to close the highway during the Games, but priority lanes may still be a possibility.
The whole Olympic transportation plan is expected to be released early next year.