BCF planning for shovels in the ground in 2020 for Gabriola terminals

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, October 31 2018

BC Ferries is saying they are planning to have shovels in the ground for a new terminal on Gabriola Island in the bottom half of 2020.

The checklist to get from now till then includes a rezoning process with the Islands Trust; a public consultation and finalization of the terminal plans; and coordinating with the Transportation Ministry (MOTI) on what the roadways around the terminal will look like post-construction. 

It also means planning with Gabriolans on what to do during the period of time when the construction process prevents any ferry from docking on Gabriola.

Mark Wilson, BCF Vice President of Strategy & Community Engagement, said that when it comes to the “interim” measures, “we’re not going for the lowest cost option. 

“We have a focus on a strong plan for service continuity. We have a good track record in [terminal shutdowns on] Sointula, Port McNeil. We need to invest in a plan that maintains the service and minimizes disruption.”

The Gabriola and Nanaimo Harbour terminals are the top two priorities for terminal development in the BC Ferries system.

BC Ferries staff have said the two terminals will be redeveloped for the Gabriola route at the same time, to further minimize the disruption to service.

Wilson said BC Ferries is close to what the staff think is the final option for what is going to happen for the Gabriola terminal.

Once BC Ferries has that finalized, it will be brought before the Gabriola Ferry Advisory Committee and be put through a public consultation process with Gabriolans.

Wilson said, “That’ll happen - I know it’s not next month [November] - but it’s very close.”

He believes that fixing the terminals, along with putting two smaller Island Class ships running twice as often as the Quinsam, will deal with a lot of the issues facing the Gabriola route.

Darin Guenette, BCF Manager of Communications, said the terminal project team is working on the rezoning application for the Islands Trust.

Once that paper is filed, BC Ferries says it believes Islands Trust will take between 18 to 20 months to work on the rezoning.

Guenette said that “they do this work with the two terminals to ensure there is minimal effect on service.”

Part of achieving that is engaging with the community to plan out a timeline, so that when there is disruption of service, it doesn’t happen at a critical point in the community’s calendar, like during the GAC Studio Tour or at the height of the tourist season. Steve Earle, FAC Chair, asked to be clear: “There will be a public event?”

Wilson said yes, “in a month or so to show what the terminal will be.”

Guenette said there will also be a second engagement process in 2019 to prepare and plan for service interruption in 2020 during construction.

Part of the design shown currently by BC Ferries has the Taylor Bay intersection with Ferry Hill being turned into a tractor-trailer-friendly traffic circle.

Jim Ramsay, FAC member, asked if MOTI has approved of that design.

Wilson said when the final plan comes forward, if there are changes to the roadways shown on that plan, MOTI has seen them and approved them.

Heather O’Sullivan, FAC member, asked if there will be a two-lane ramp for loading and unloading the ships.

Wilson said that as part of BC Ferries’ ship standardization process there is also ramp standardization.

There will be a designated lane for walk-on passengers, as well as two lanes for vehicle loading, so that operations has the flexibility with demand to use two lanes or not.

Earle pointed out that when the terminal development team was last on Gabriola, the FAC were critical of the proposed terminal plans which did not account for safe pedestrian exit and entry into the terminal area, and did not have enough space for multiple buses to park.

For some of the sailings, both GERTIE runs and the school bus are at the terminal at the same time. Even if there are two ships running on the route in the future, that may still happen.

Earle said, “We’re concerned that not everything we’ve asked for is on that plan.

“We want to know that if there’s something critical to the community missing, we can get changes to the plan.”

Wilson said, “I chair our master planning and steering committee . Our terminal development plan is not just ours - it’s yours. We’re concerned about safety, and not just with vehicles. It’s not final - if we don’t take up something in this phase, they’ll explain why.

“We’re not coming back to tell you how it is, we’re coming back to ask if you’re happy with it. And if something isn’t there, hopefully [the terminal team] explains why.