NANAIMO — A $200,000 contract has been awarded to a Colorado-based international company to study the feasibility of linking Gabriola Island and Vancouver Island by bridge.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has awarded the contract to CH2M Hill Canada Ltd. to study potential bridge locations, cost estimates and compare a fixed link with existing ferry service. The terms do not require an assessment of public support for a bridge.
The go-ahead for a study follows a petition signed by more than 600 island residents, after ferry schedule changes and rising fares were seen as limiting access to Vancouver Island, where many Gabriolans shop, work, go to school and spend leisure time.
Return ferry fare between Gabriola Island and Nanaimo for two adults, two children and one vehicle is $57.85. About 341,000 vehicles travelled the route in 2013-14.
Jeremy Baker, a founding member of the Gabriola Bridge Society, said that, assuming the study finds the cost acceptable, he would like to see a bridge built. “I don’t think [the government would] do the study, if they weren’t prepared to do it.”
Transportation Minister Todd Stone, who announced the study in September, said it will give residents the information to have an informed debate about a bridge and how it compares to the existing ferry service.
While he looks forward to the final report, Baker hopes it isn’t influenced by the newly formed Bridge-Free Salish Sea group, which advocates for no bridges anywhere in the Gulf Islands.
“I don’t think it’s fair for other Gulf Islanders to have any input into what Gabriola can have,” he said.
Bridge-Free lists no official spokesperson and says it doesn’t give individual, on-the-spot interviews to print media. “This is because we prefer to work from a place of group consensus,” the group says in a statement.
About 4,000 people live on Gabriola Island.