12/03/2014 05:09 EST | Updated 02/02/2015 05:59 EST

B.C. government awards $200,000 contract to study Gabriola bridge

VICTORIA - A $200,000 contract has been awarded to a Colorado-based company to study the feasibility of linking Gabriola Island and Vancouver Island by bridge.

CH2M Hill Canada Ltd., which has offices across Canada but is based in Englewood, Colo., will study potential bridge locations, cost estimates and compare a fixed link with existing ferry service.

A Ministry of Transportation statement says the company will not assess the level of public support for a fixed link with the island located east of Nanaimo.

The study was announced in September by Transportation Minister Todd Stone after hundreds of locals who were tired of ferry fare increases and service cuts petitioned the government.

Stone says the study will give residents the necessary information to have an informed debate about a bridge and how it compares to the existing ferry service.

About 4,000 full-time residents live on Gabriola Island, which is serviced by a ferry that the B.C. government says carried 341,000 vehicles in 2013-14.