BCF commits to improving safety on Taylor Bay Road

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, November 21 2017

For Gabriolans, the ferry along Taylor Bay Road continues to be a safety concern - more so this year than in any previous year according to Steve Earle, Chair of the Gabriola Ferry Advisory Committee (FAC).

BC Ferries staff said they are committing to working with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) to deal with the problems.

Combined with the year-round issue of long lineups and overloads on sailings throughout the day and, as FAC members and members of the public have said, it is a wonder there have only been minor injuries from vehicle collisions on that road.

At the Gabriola FAC meeting this past Wednesday, members of the public pointed out that while Gabriola’s overall population (according to 2016 census) is holding steady, there has been a boom in construction on the island, and even in the past year there are more people living here permanently.

This means more residents and more commercial traffic riding the ferry, plus safety issues outside the BC Ferries terminal area, but certainly associated with BC Ferries customers.

Mark Wilson, BC Ferries VP of Strategic Planning & Community Engagement, said, “I’m not going to pass the buck. The terminal is ours, I can do something about that. 

“The roadside is MOTI property - so it’s not mine to do something about. 

“Before, we used to say it is a MOTI problem. We’ve changed the dial to say what you’re experiencing is what some of the other coastal communities are experiencing with terminals.

“Safety issues, stacking traffic, safety markings. We’re going to try and use our influence with these other elements to bring more attention to them.”

Wilson said BC Ferries recently had Ministry staff out to the minor terminals to talk about the safety issues. 

“We’re trying to raise the awareness on that. 

“To get some of these issues solved on the other side of the terminal. We’ll have follow-up meetings with them.”

Earle asked if it were reasonable to say the Gabriola situation is worse than almost anywhere.

Wilson said, “It is one of the higher priority ones, that is fair to say. We’ve had significant safety concerns with other terminals.”

A member of the public pointed out there are almost 10,000 people who live on Gabriola in the summer. The other islands may have a thousand.

Wilson said, “What you’re asking is something that I don’t control. You have to raise that with MOTI - there are things that we are not capable of doing.”

Jim Ramsay, FAC member, said the issue has been raised many times with both BC Ferries and MOTI. Both agencies say the issue is the responsibility of the other.

David Hendry, BC Ferries Director of Strategic Planning, said when most of the smaller terminals were put in place a few years ago, they were built to serve smaller vessels, smaller populations.

When BC Ferries does terminal planning and replacement, it takes a 25 year horizon as its target.

“We’ll be doing that for Gabriola.”

Gabriola is due to have terminal work done in 2021, when both the Nanaimo Harbour terminal and the Gabriola terminal will be upgraded.

Wilson said, “We see that we need to press the issue and we will continue to do that. I’m not shying away from the concern - it is a priority to deal with those upland issues with MOTI.”