B.C. Conservatives reveal major new ferry crossing concept to make radical improvements in B.C. transportation routes

News Release March 22, 2017

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NANAIMO – The B.C. Conservative Party, which is competing in the May 9 provincial election, has unveiled a conceptual proposal for a radical improvement in transportation services between Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island.

“The plans we have developed would when implemented provide a huge boost to the B.C. economy and greatly improve the lives of literally millions of people,” said John Twigg, the party’s director of policy and communications, at a launch event in downtown Nanaimo near the B.C. Ferry Corporation’s cramped and out-moded terminal for its money-losing ferry service to Gabriola Island.

“We want to emphasize that we are not proposing any immediate large and risky outlay of taxpayers’ dollars here but rather we are suggesting that an agency of the B.C. government work with private-sector advisers to issue Requests for Proposals (RFPs) to public and private-sector entities from inside B.C. and around the world to suggest the best ways to design and implement these concepts,” said BCCP President Corbin Mitchell, who attended the event.

Twigg explained that the concept involves building a simple and cost-effective bridge from Vancouver Island to Gabriola Island at one of the two or three sites near Mudge Island that were studied last year and found to be viable by the provincial Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure – even including a pre-built highway interchange for it, and from there improving an existing road to the Silva Bay area on the southeast side of Gabriola where a major new ferry terminal could be built on land now owned by the federal government or on other lands nearby.

A newly-designed dedicated ferry or two would run – possibly 24/7 – from Silva Bay to a yet-to-be-built dock west of Vancouver International Airport possibly at a site adapted onto the end of one of two existing jetties from nearby Iona Island (which also is the location for Metro Vancouver’s Iona wastewater/sewage treatment plant and now is connected by road to Sea Island, site of YVR Vancouver International Airport) or run to a new purpose-built dock and elevated causeway to/from Sea Island where there also would be a new ferry terminal (parking and services) that would be easily connected by existing roads to the airport and major highways.

From the new ferry terminal on Iona or Sea Island the concept would include designing and building a new rapid transit line connecting either directly to the YVR terminal or to either of the existing SkyTrain Canada Line stations at Sea Island or Templeton (which branch line concludes with a station inside the airport terminal).

While one might assume it would be best and easiest to simply extend the existing SkyTrain line to the new Iona Island ferry terminal, in fact this new route would provide a good opportunity for entrepreneurial technologists to design a new and even better form of rapid transit that could be readily demonstrated to potential buyers from around the world, said Twigg, noting that the EAZEway Bypass Technologies group of transportation consultants who are offering to assist a BCCP government’s RFP process are already examining a potential enhancement of their existing designs to include an elevated trackway that could carry large-capacity passenger compartments on compressed-air tracks using energy captured from the sewage treatment plant. See www.eazeway.org .

Twigg noted that locating a major new ferry terminal designed for large vehicles and foot passengers at that Iona/Sea Island location would have many other major benefits, such as providing commercial truck traffic with easy access to/from the Highways 91 and 99 which connect easily to the industrial areas of Metro Vancouver, the Trans-Canada Highway and the U.S. border crossing at Blaine – and that would greatly ease the existing capacity problems at the Tsawwassen ferry terminal, the George Massey Tunnel (where the current government is pushing a costly new bridge on dubious footings and fuzzy finances) and the Horseshoe Bay terminal, where space is already tight and news reports suggest would be at great risk in a major earthquake.

“This new crossing would revolutionize the B.C. economy in many ways, especially by greatly improving commercial and industrial traffic access to and from the island but also for families and tourists who would enjoy cheaper, faster and better service too,” said Twigg, noting the 17-kilometre crossing would take maybe 30 minutes or so per trip compared with 90-minutes plus on the Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo and Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay runs and the illogical 2-hour run from Tsawwassen to Duke Point (the latter of which also is a huge money-loser).

“If this service was in place an Island resident for example could easily travel as a foot-passenger to a hockey game in Vancouver and still make it home in time to get a good night’s sleep,” said Twigg, noting that similar new-crossing concepts occasionally have been floated in previous decades but generally got rejected not on economics but on politicians’ reluctance to face the NIMBY backlash from roughly half of the approximately 5,000 residents of Gabriola and from some militant environmental preservationists in the Islands Trust, which as an entity created by the provincial government also can be changed by the same government if that becomes necessary.

Jeremy Baker, a pro-bridge activist who lives on Gabriola, noted that replacing the money-losing ferry run with a 24/7 bridge access would be very beneficial financially for the province and in many ways for residents, notably improving access to health and other services and removing the need for emergency helicopter flights and ongoing ferry subsidies which in 2012 on the Gabriola run were about $1.75 million. He said the new bridge should have been initiated long ago but was thwarted by anti-development politicians in the Islands Trust.

“It’s obvious that this concept’s many great benefits would far outweigh the negative impacts and even most of those could be mitigated so we think it should proceed forthwith regardless of which party wins on May 9,” said Twigg, citing EAZEway consultant David Hawkins’ suggestion that the proposed transit line also could involve injecting oxygen into the sewage plant’s effluent to minimize its harmful affects on fish.

Hawkins, a former coordinator of AI and Geoscience Research for Schlumberger (the world’s leading provider of technology for reservoir characterization, drilling, production, and processing to the oil and gas industry) and now a resident of Surrey, explained that the best way to proceed would be to invite the many excellent video developers in Vancouver to propose plans for “virtual prototyping” which could involve building scale models of the various components and making videos of them for circulation to engineering and construction firms and other project design teams around the world who would use the video to develop practical plans, such as how the ferry or ferries could be designed (e.g. dual fuel?), how an elevated causeway could be designed (rail above or below the passenger compartment) and how the new transit line could be designed (various sources of energy).

Hawkins noted that oil-industry drilling-platform techniques now enable solid structures to be built quickly and efficiently even in muddy waters, which would be useful in providing a causeway and dock that would enable earthquake-proof ferry access to Vancouver Island which it now lacks, and that an elevated causeway would be better environmentally than the rock-fill causeways now used at Tsawwassen and Roberts Bank.

Hawkins further noted that the proposed new transportation route is an example of a growing trend in global commerce in which transportation corridors are used for numerous purposes all at once, such as energy conduits and computer communication lines being laid in rapid transit corridors, which he suggested is another aspect that the Fourth Crossing concept could entail.

Mitchell noted that this Fourth Crossing proposal is only the first of numerous innovative policy proposals and platform positions that the B.C. Conservatives will be unveiling in the election campaign.

“Though the B.C. Conservatives are now a small party with no seats in the Legislature we are still rich in ideas and have many good candidates being nominated and so we look forward to presenting them to voters in the coming campaign,” said Mitchell, referring interested people to the party’s website at www.bcconservative.ca .

“British Columbia has suffered a lot from incompetent and sometimes even knowingly corrupt regimes in recent decades but it’s time for a change for the better now and this proposal from the B.C. Conservatives proves that B.C. voters do have a viable and even attractive alternative that they now can support,” said Twigg, a long-time business and political journalist now based in Campbell River.

The 2016 document produced by the Gabriola Fixed Link Feasibility Study can be seen here.

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Background information and a detailed description of the fourth ferry crossing is available at:
New Ferry Route

For more information contact
Bob Bray, Campaign Manager
250-504-0052 cell
250-434-2550 office