The Vancouver Sun has reported on the latest open houses held in the Gibsons area once again chatting about a new link for access to the Sunshine Coast. This idea has been discussed in 1998 and 2001-and it is back again.
By virtue of geography — and unsteady, expensive B.C. Ferries service — Gibsons and the rest of the Sunshine Coast that stretch another 180 kilometres north are, according to local tourism promotional fluff, the province’s “best kept secret.”
There’s now a plan brewing, an ambitious scheme that would bridge the ocean-filled gap. B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is floating proposals that would allow cars and trucks to bypass or traverse Howe Sound, the body of water that separates Gibsons and points north from the hurly-burly south.
The Vancouver Sun attended the Thursday evening session of The Sunshine Coast Fixed Link Study in a Gibsons’ hotel meeting room filled with inscrutable maps and busy display boards
The latest discussion involves several different plans. One or all could be adopted, eventually. The most viable, say people at Thursday’s open house, is a suspension bridge/road that would see traffic divert from the highway near Horseshoe Bay, cross Howe Sound at its narrowest point, touch land for a bit at tiny Anvil Island, then complete the crossing on a second bridge that would reach the shore north of Gibsons.
Now here is the interesting part-the estimated construction costs are between $ 2 Billion and $ 2.5 Billion dollars.Does that sound familiar? That is close to the estimate for the Massey Bridge across the Fraser until the Provincial Government said the exact cost was not $2.5 billion but would be $ 3.4997 billion as reported in Price Tags last Monday.
While a fixed link would encourage local development, raise real estate prices and create jobs, an Anvil Island crossing has one more hurdle-the Island Trust which manages the islands in the Salish Sea and in Howe Sound. A local Islands Trust trustee, Kate-Louise Stamford has stated that“It is Islands Trust policy that we do not support fixed links on any of the islands.” So despite the fact that the link to Anvil Island seems the most expedient, the Trust and the 18 property owners on the island may not think so.
And if past experience is any guide, that may be enough to sink this fixed link alternative and bring other options back to the drawing board, such as circuitous highway from Howe Sound up towards Powell River on the north end of the Sunshine Coast.