Road options from the Sunshine Coast to the Lower Mainland will be looked at closely after the province’s call for a comprehensive route study.
BC government announced Thursday, November 26, that it was seeking a consulting firm to prepare a report on the various options to link the Sunshine Coast, including a Powell River to Squamish road.
Powell River Chamber of Commerce’s Campaign for Fiscal Fairness and Third Crossing Society expressed support for the announcement.
“We have been working hard with residents and other chambers of commerce for two years,” Jack Barr, chamber president, stated in a media release. “There seems to be strong support for a fixed-link solution to connect communities on the mainland that are separated by deep inlets.”
Sunshine Coast chambers of commerce all sent letters of support to transportation minister Todd Stone in September after the BC government announced it would look into the transportation link. Sunshine Coast Tourism has also passed resolutions of support for the road connection.
According to Barr, the request for proposal shows the province has heard coastal communities’ concerns about ferry service becoming an economic development and travel deterrent.
“Because they are prepared to say that ferries are part of the problem, we know the province is ready to step up with a solution,” stated Barr.
BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) is looking for a consultant to undertake a comprehensive study of several transportation options, including the Third Crossing Society’s proposed Powell River to Highway 99 link.
Once awarded, the government expects the report to be completed by late summer of 2016. The study will assess four options including a road from Powell River to Highway 99, a road from Port Mellon to Squamish, a bridge between Port Mellon and Highway 99 and an Earls Cove to Saltery Bay bridge.
“We’re very pleased that the Third Crossing link is included in the government’s request for proposal,” said Gary Fribance, society president.
Third Crossing Society recently held a town hall meeting on Wednesday, November 25, the night before the government released its request, and over 300 Powell River residents attended.
The meeting gave society directors an opportunity to provide the community with an update on the work the society has been engaged in recently and show the challenges the roadbuilding project will have to overcome.
“We’re not asking the government to spend more money, just make BC Ferries more efficient, then use the benefits of those efficiencies to pay for the road,” he said.
Fribance said the meeting was very positive, though one resident expressed concerns about increased traffic.