Infrastructure funding raises hopes for Belleville terminal plans

The federal government’s plan to spend another $81 billion on infrastructure over the next 11 years is raising hopes that the Belleville Street Terminal project will be completed.

The province, City of Victoria and the tenants of the terminal say they believe Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s commitment to funding a broad mix of ventures including transportation projects, starting in the 2017-18 fiscal year, will mean the third phase of Belleville Street will go ahead.

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“The indication from the federal government all along has been Belleville is an important infrastructure project,” Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said. “We are anticipating a positive outcome based on all the signals we have received.”

About 750,000 passengers are brought in by the Coho and Clipper ferries each year and as much as $300 million in cargo is ferried by the Coho between B.C. and Washington state annually.

As it stands, Helps said, the terminal — which uses several portable trailers — is “not a good welcome to Canada.”

Improvements to the terminal, home to Clipper Navigation’s passenger ferry to Seattle and Black Ball Ferry Line’s car ferry to Port Angeles, have begun.

Phase 1, funded by the province, Black Ball and Clipper, was a $17.5-million dock replacement that included improved U.S. Customs facilities and covered walkways for passengers. It was completed this year.

Phase 2, which will start next year, is a $2-million improvement program for Belleville Street, to be funded by the city and Tourism Victoria.

Phase 3 is the most expensive and requires federal buy-in. It envisions one building for Black Ball, Clipper and customs. The province has estimated it would cost about $40 million.

Ryan Burles, chief executive of Black Ball, said it sounds like the federal money is likely available, but there is no timeline to start work.

“Right now, the province is scoping out what the project will look like and determining the cost,” he said.

In a joint statement, B.C. Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone and Community Minister Peter Fassbender welcomed the funding, saying it would promote jobs, economic growth and trade.

“British Columbia is Canada’s Pacific gateway, and the entire country benefits when we invest in infrastructure that helps move goods and services from our coast to the rest of the country and back,” the statement said. “These new dollars will go into projects that will grow our economy, address local and provincial infrastructure needs and provide good and long-term jobs.”

Stone has consistently said that he sees the Belleville Street Terminal as a priority and as an economic generator.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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