John Whistler provides background and comment on yet another massive road-and-bridge project proposed by the Province.
Sunshine Coast Fixed Link Options
After reviewing the various fixed link options, the first impression is the extreme costs and engineering challenges. This explains why a link over Bowen and Keats Islands did not even make the long listing of 13 options that were initially identified.
There is now a short listing of five options:
Powell River Road Link – Estimated $2.5 – 3 Billion.
This is a new 200-km highway from Squamish to Powell River, over Jervis Inlet, including five bridges and two tunnels. Surprisingly, this option anticipates that the existing BC Ferries services would be retained. It seems the only significant benefit might be resource development that would be opened up. However this is unlikely given unsettled First Nations land claims.
Powell River Bridge Link – Estimated $1.5–2 Billion.
This would replace the Earls Cove to Saltery Bay ferry service with a 1.5 km suspension bridge from Earls Cove to Nelson Island and a 2 km suspension bridge from Nelson Island to Ahlstrom Point along with interconnecting highways.
Langdale Road Link – Estimated $1.5–2 Billion.
This is a new 58-km highway from Squamish to Port Mellon that would hug the west side of Howe Sound – 105 km from Langdale to Horseshoe Bay. Basically, this would be a mirror image of the east-side Hwy 99, which was a significant engineering accomplishment when it was built in the 1950s. This route would also be subject to the landslide and traffic safety risks that currently exist on Hwy 99.
Langdale Bridge Link – Estimated $2–2.5 Billion.
This would have a 1.5 km suspension bridge from Hwy 99 near Brunswick Point to Anvil Island and another 1.5 km suspension bridge to near McNab Creek, and then a new highway to Port Mellon – 50 km from Langdale to Horseshoe Bay. Is this option worth the extra billion or so in costs to save 55 km of driving?
Maintain existing ferry services – Status Quo.
In 2015, the BC Ferries Annual Report notes the Horseshoe Bay-to-Langdale route required a subsidy of $2,980,000, and the Earls Cove to Saltery Bay route made a profit of $2,128,000.
The BC Ministry of Transportation Infrastructure background material includes a Multiple Account Evaluation (MAE) of the various short-listed scenarios with a high-level review of the economic, environmental, social and service implications. Unfortunately the status quo option was not included in the comparison table in the MoTI posting.
As such it is confusing for the reader to determine which option is better. However, based on cost only, the status quo with the existing ferry services is compelling.