Letter: re Gabriola bridge feasibility study

Monday, December 15 2014

Dear Editor,

I read through the recently released Terms of Reference for the bridge feasibility study and there it is in black and white, what the government is really up to: “Based on the forecast, the consultant should confirm whether a 2 or 4 lane crossing would be required to meet demand in the peak period.” 

Four lanes? Gabriola is never going to need four lanes, unless...we become a conduit for traffic from the mainland to Vancouver Island. (Transportation Minister Todd Stone did just last month float the idea of closing the Departure Bay Ferry Terminal.) 

A major terminal on Gabriola and then a bridge to the “Big Island” via Mudge would be one option. 

Or possibly a terminal on Valdez Island and then over to Gabriola, Mudge and Vancouver Island. 

Shorten that ferry trip from the mainland at any cost!

 They’ve looked at this idea before – you can google “A Potential Fixed Link to Vancouver Island.” 

The effect would be significant portions of these precious islands turned into piers, a huge parking lot and highways. 

Many, many cars, semis and coaches both idling and passing through. 

Could it be that is what the feasibility study is really looking at? 

To those who dismiss the possibility with, “It’ll never happen,” I have to say I just don’t have that much faith in the government. 

I don’t want a bridge of any kind. I like the ferry line and the crossing; the chance to sit back with a cup of coffee and a book, to bump into friends, to watch the water go by and sometimes whales or sea lions. 

It concerns me that many people are still thinking a bridge would simply mean not having to wait in the ferry line. 

Be careful what you ask for when you say you want a bridge. It may not be the kind of bridge you had in mind. 

~ April Steele 

The proposal to replace BC Ferry Route 19 with a new highway will require expensive construction of two long, high span bridges, several kilometres of a two- or four-lane thoroughfare, new interchanges, local upgrades and disruptive expropriations on Gabriola, Mudge and in Cedar. 

If the province does forge ahead with this new transportation project it will NOT build a homey, two-lane, Huck Finn/Tom Sawyer affair with nice little bridges where you can stand and fish. Make no mistake - this initiative will be part of a larger scheme to implement the “Short Ferry Route” from the mainland to Vancouver Island. 

In other words, this new transportation corridor will be a full-blown, industrial infrastructure project.

It was this proposal, the “Short Ferry” option, that BC Ferries floated as a trial balloon a couple of weeks ago. The proposal has gone back to be reworked, but it will resurface once the two-lane or four-lane route analysis is made public this spring.

Consider: the province carries a $64 billion debt load. The Quinsam runs about $1.5 million deficit - in other words, .000023 % of the provincial obligation. There is no way the province will spend a hundred or more million dollars to remove this infinitesimal debt. 

However, Victoria will happily spend this much money to rearrange B C Ferries’ major routes. Not only will this plan save them hundreds of millions in upgrade costs to the aging, congested, non-earthquake proof Horseshoe Bay infrastructure, the adoption of the “Short Ferry” strategy will facilitate the removal of one third of B C Ferries’ Salish Sea crossings by combining two ferry terminals into one modern, efficient facility. 

Implementation of this option would provide large scale operating and capital savings for the corporation, significantly improving its financial outlook. This is something government desperately needs; the brokerage community is demanding. So the “Short Ferry” strategy is a win/win for BC Ferries and its financial overlords. 

But what of those of us who live here? While there is a lot of debate as to whether the creation of a new access artery would be good or bad, it is not debateable that building such a conduit will bring huge changes to Gabriola. 

So don’t be lulled, don’t think there is a middle road. There isn’t. The Gabriola lifestyle as we have known it is on the chopping block. 

What are you going to do about that? 

~ Dave Neads