Powell Street Overpass project

A design rendering of the Powell Street overpass

The Powell Street Overpass project is a $50-million major road and rail infrastructure enhancement for a section of Powell Street in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, just west of Clark Drive.

Project goals

  • Expand capacity and enhance the rail network that supports the movement of goods through Port Metro Vancouver 
  • Improve access and safety for pedestrians, cyclists, and commuters in the Powell Street corridor

The City contributed $3.75 million to the project, and was responsible for delivering the project on behalf of funding partners, which included Port Metro Vancouver, Transport Canada, CP, and TransLink.

Construction began in June, 2013 and was completed in the summer of 2014.

Related projects

Progress with this project

Construction now complete on the Powell Street Overpass

July 28, 2014 — The Powell Street Overpass project is complete. Minor finishing work such as landscaping and trolley wire installation will be ongoing until fall 2014. We thank you for your patience during this project.

Final stages of construction, Powell Street should re-open in first week of August

June 17, 2014 – Crews have paved the first layer of asphalt on the western side of the overpass (see image below). In the coming weeks, weather permitting, we will finish paving, place sidewalks, install trolley poles and streetlights, and landscape.

Road crews paving the western side of the Powell Street Overpass

Construction 70% complete

March 1, 2014 – We have passed a major milestone on the project: installing the steel bridge girders over the Burrard Inlet Rail Line (see photo). Construction of the Powell Street Overpass Project is about 70% complete and Powell Street is on schedule to re-open to traffic in early August.

Steel bridge girders of the overpass

Construction starts June 24: Powell closed between Hawks Avenue and Clark Drive

June 21, 2013 - Powell Street is closing between Hawks Avenue and Clark Drive for construction on June 24. Businesses will remain open, and local access maintained. We have worked with transportation consultants to reduce the impact of this closure, and are encouraging the use of alternate routes.

  • Get complete details of our local traffic control plan

Information from our public drop-in session is now available for review

May 2, 2013 – The information we shared with the public during our May 2 open house is now available for you to review.

You can download the information board in the Documents tab.

Information session

April 15, 2013 – Come to the drop-in session and learn more about the project. City staff and project partners will be available to discuss the project, answer questions, and gather your input.

Date: May 2, 2013
Time: 4:00pm – 8:00pm
Location: 1607 East Hastings Street, Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society, Chief Simon Baker Room

Council approves the project for construction

March 14, 2013 – Council authorized City staff to finalize agreements with partners. Upon completion, Council approved the project for construction on April 23, 2013.

Localized site preparation

February 2013 – We have started localized site preparation. We expect this work will have minimal traffic impacts. There will be limited and temporary lane closures scheduled during off-peak hours.

Public open house

May 24, 2012 – We held an open house to give area residents and businesses the opportunity to review the plans for Powell Street, ask questions, and give us their opinions.

Public consultation

March 2012 – We began consulting residents, businesses, and community groups to get their opinions about this project. Stakeholders were invited to provide feedback in writing, by email, or by meeting in-person with City staff.

Read more about the feedback we received, in the Details tab.

Council votes to approve the Powell Street overpass

2009 – City Council voted to approve the Powell Street overpass project in principle. 

Overpass design

Open house information boards and feedback

What we heard at the open house:

Information about traffic during construction

Background documents

What we are doing

We are replacing the Powell Street rail line level crossing near Raymur Street with a multi-use overpass. This new overpass will have four lanes of vehicle traffic, two pedestrian sidewalks, and a counter-flow bike lane.

We are also realigning a portion of Powell Street to the south so a new east-west rail track can be added. This track will increase capacity and improve access to and from the port.

Finally, we are creating dedicated cycling lanes and sidewalks to improve safety and connectivity to the planned Portside Greenway, which will run from downtown to Boundary Road as part of the City’s Greenways Network.

Why we started this project

We are creating the Powell Street overpass to:

  • Improve walking and cycling in the area
  • Improve transit and vehicle movement in the area
  • Improve rail operations for the port

Improving walking and cycling

We will provide safe, convenient, and comfortable walking and cycling routes for people of all ages and abilities. We will do this by:

  • Separating pedestrians and cyclists from vehicles
  • Providing better east-west connections for cycling and walking within the neighbourhood
  • Creating a core section of the planned Portside Greenway that will run from downtown to Boundary Road as part of the City’s Greenways Network

Improving transit and vehicle movement

We will improve transit and vehicle movement and safety in the Powell Street corridor. We will do this by:

  • Reducing congestion and delays at the road/rail level crossing for pedestrians, cyclists, vehicles and six transit bus routes (No. 4, 7, 209, 210, 211, 214)

Improving rail operations

We will improve rail operations to and from the port. We will do this by:

  • Expanding capacity and improve efficiency of the rail network to support trade and goods movement through Port Metro Vancouver.
  • Providing space for a new east-west CP Rail track south of the existing tracks
  • Eliminating the Powell Street-Burrard Inlet Rail Line road/rail level crossing
  • Allowing for improved rail connection between the port and the False Creek rail yards, and south to the USA via the Burrard Inlet rail line

See the Economic Development Strategy for details of the City of Vancouver’s support for port, rail and trade gateway infrastructure.

City policies that guide this project

Supporting our port as a trade gateway

As part of the City's economic development strategy, we are committed to supporting our port as a trade gateway. We do this by protecting industrial and rail lands from development, so that the Port continues to thrive. 

We are improving access to the Port for goods movement by rail and truck while addressing local community needs and impacts.

Reducing the city's carbon footprint

In order to reach our goal of becoming the greenest city in the world by 2020, it is important that we support the movement of goods by rail as much as possible.

City policy favours goods movement by rail over trucking, due to rail’s lower environmental impacts and reduced overall community impacts.

Improving the safety and efficiency for cycling, walking, and public transit

We prioritize cycling, walking, and public transit as preferred modes of transportation, and are also committed to improving the safety and efficiency of pedestrian, cycling, transit, and vehicle movement both city-wide, and in the Powell Street corridor.

This project will contribute to these goals by providing dedicated cycling lanes and improved sidewalks. It will also remove the Burrard Inlet Rail Line road/rail level crossing for cyclists, pedestrians and buses, which will improve safety for all road users and reducing traffic delays.

Who we are working with 

The City of Vancouver will contribute $3.75 million and is responsible for delivering the project on behalf of funding partners. Other partners include:

  • Port Metro Vancouver ($19.5M)
  • Transport Canada ($18.5M)
  • CP Rail ($4.5M)
  • TransLink ($3.75M).

Involving residents, businesses, and community groups

We began consulting and collecting feedback about the project from businesses, residents, and community groups in the spring of 2012.

We held a public open house on May 24, 2012 and stakeholders were also offered the opportunity to provide feedback in writing or by email, or to schedule an in-person meeting with City staff.

Feedback we have received from the public

Feedback we have received includes:

  • Concerns about the impact of the extended closure of Powell St during overpass construction on local businesses and residents (access and traffic management).
  • Support for the improved pedestrian and cycling connections along Powell St.
  • Interest in minimizing graffiti and vandalism on of the overpass.
  • Employment opportunities for local residents from the Downtown Eastside during project construction.

Staff continue to work with partner organizations to finalize project details, and will consider additional public input as the project moves forward.

Managing traffic in the area

City staff will monitor our traffic plan to make sure local streets and communities are not affected. We will make changes to the plan to address any issues, if required.

The City is also working closely with Translink and Coast Mountain Bus Company to maintain transit service levels in the area.

February 2013

Localized site preparation is expected to have minimal traffic impacts with limited and temporary lane closures scheduled during off-peak hours.

June 2013 to summer 2014

Powell Street will be closed to traffic between Hawks Avenue and Clark Drive. Access will be limited to business and local traffic only.

  • Businesses in the area will remain open
  • The intersections at Hastings/Clark and Hawks/Hastings will be modified to facilitate the detour
  • Commuter traffic not destined for local business along Powell St and Cordova St should use alternate arterial routes

Port Metro Vancouver

Port Metro Vancouver (PMV) is Canada’s largest and busiest port, and the most diversified port in North America. It ranks first in North America in foreign export shipments and second on the west coast of the Americas in total cargo volume.

PMV is undertaking several initiatives to improve the movement of cargo, traffic and employees in and out of the port. It aims to increase rail capacity, reduce road-rail conflicts, and improve transportation access for area businesses.

Economic considerations

Vancouver’s Economic Action Strategy (2011) focuses on attracting and retaining people as key economic drivers, creating a climate for growth and prosperity, and supporting business investment and trade.

The City has a key role in supporting the port as a gateway to global markets through local land use and transportation policies.

Project and area history

  • March 1995: Vancouver City Council approved the Industrial Lands Strategy, which included False Creek Flats as an area to be retained for industrial uses that are transportation related and serve the downtown.
  • March 2001: Council gave approval-in-principle to the False Creek Flats Structure Plan.
  • September 2005: Council requested that Vancouver Port Authority, Gateway Council and railway companies prepare a detailed rail operation and network study of the False Creek Flats and waterfront rail support yards.
  • January 2007: Council authorized the City to enter into a contribution agreement with Transport Canada for the False Creek Flats Rail Corridor Strategy (under the Federal Government’s Transportation Planning and Modal Integration Initiative). Its aim was to identify preliminary road/rail/bicycle grade separation concepts along the Burrard Inlet rail line.
  • June 2008: Transport Canada, with Port Metro Vancouver (PMV), the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, TransLink, and the Greater Vancouver Gateway Council began the South Shore Trade Area Study. The study identified bottlenecks in the transportation system serving the PMV South Shore terminals, and identified infrastructure projects that improve rail and terminal operations, while addressing community and environmental issues.
  • October 2008: The False Creek Flats Rail Corridor Strategy was completed, with participation from Port Metro Vancouver, the Greater Vancouver Gateway Council, TransLink, Better Environmentally Sound Transportation (BEST), and the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition (VACC). The study identified Powell Street Rail Grade Separation (Powell Street Overpass) as providing the highest rail benefits, and opportunities for cycling, pedestrian and transit improvements.
  • February 2009: City Council gave approval in principle to proceed with the Powell Street Overpass Project. Final approval would be subject to establishing a successful funding agreement.
  • March 2009: Transport Canada completed the South Shore Trade Area Study, which included a recommendation to give high priority to the Powell Street Overpass and the Stewart St Elevated Road. The Powell Street Project was also identified for federal funding through the Asia Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative.
  • March - June 2012: Staff consulted with area businesses, residents and community groups about the project, and invited questions and comments. Project definition report was prepared and included preliminary design, cost estimates, risk assessment, and property acquisition investigation.
  • June - December 2012: A request for proposals (RFP) was issued to the construction industry for the design finalization and construction of the project.
  • 2011 - 2012: The City of Vancouver’s Transportation Plan is updated to set goals and directions for transportation decisions from now until 2040.
  • April 2013: Council approves the project for construction and BA Blacktop is awarded the design-build contract.

Transit service changes during this project

4 UBC/Downtown and 4 Powell/Downtown bus service is changing during construction. Get complete schedule and route details from TransLink.

Visit TransLink