BRITISH COLUMBIA

Bridge Between Gabriola Island And Vancouver Island To Be Studied

09/18/2014 01:32 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 00:58 EDT
Aphex Twin/Flickr
On the ferry from Nanaimo.
VICTORIA - Ferry service between Gabriola Island and Vancouver Island is so unreliable and expensive that it needs to be replaced by two bridges, says the man behind a petition that spurred a government feasibility study on the idea.

Jeremy Baker, of the Gabriola Island Bridge Society, said the idea of a fixed link has been floated for 40 years and debated in the legislature but the time has now come to make it happen.

"It's not right, what BC Ferries is doing," he said Thursday, adding that ongoing fare increases and service cuts propelled 660 Gabriola island residents to sign the petition calling for the study.

Baker said two bridges are needed — from Gabriola Island to Mudge Island, and from there to Joan Point Park — for what is now a 17-kilometre ferry trip that is supposed to be 20-minute trip.

However, regular delays mean the crossing can take three times as long, causing major inconvenience for people who work in Nanaimo or go there for doctors' appointments, he said.

A ferry advisory committee, appointed by BC Ferries, consists mostly of rich and retired people who don't have to deal with deteriorating service, Baker said.

"They don't care about late ferries for the people who get off shift late, they don't care about early ferries for people who have to get to work really early."

Gabriola Islanders who are against the fixed crossings because they don't want more people coming to the isolated location should consider moving elsewhere, Baker said.

"They want to keep people away."

Transportation Minister Todd Stone said Thursday that the feasibility study prompted by the petition is being done so any future discussions about a fixed link can be based on current information.

But the ministry said in a news release that an independent consultant conducting the study will not assess the level of public support for a bridge.

The study, expected to start this fall and finish next spring, will include an examination of potential locations for a fixed link, a cost estimate and a comparison of the cost between a bridge and existing ferry service.

Jordan Sturdy, a member of the legislature and the parliamentary secretary to the transportation minister, began touring Vancouver Island last week as part of a consultation process on a 10-year transportation plan that includes the entire province.

"For the people of British Columbia, the ferry system is a hopeless case. It's absolutely unsustainable," Baker said.

The idea of a bridge between Vancouver and Victoria has also made the rounds over the years as ferry service becomes increasingly unaffordable.

About 4,000 people live on Gabriola Island, which draws a larger population during summer months.

BC Ferries' service to the island east of Nanaimo was reduced as a cost-cutting measure last year when service on other routes was also chopped.

ALSO ON HUFFPOST: