Ferries must be included in highway system

Duncan – Sustainable economic development throughout coastal B.C. requires an efficient and stable transportation system. Currently, our coastal transportation system is in tatters and is a major hurdle to long-term investment in the coastal economy. It is clear we need to reincorporate the ferry system into the provincial highway system. By doing so, we can begin long-term transportation planning and make significant public infrastructure investments that will guarantee long-term, efficient transportation throughout coastal B.C.

One such proposal that could be considered is the construction of a toll bridge across the Saanich Inlet, and the closure of the Duke Point, Mill Bay, and Brentwood Bay terminals once the bridge is completed. The existing Duke Point-Tswassen sailings could be incorporated into the Swartz Bay-Tswassen route without any modifications to the existing terminal infrastructure. The Duke Point terminal could be sold to a port operator and a container terminal could be constructed there.

The resulting increased sailing frequency along the stunning Swartz Bay-Tswassen route would increase tourism to the island. The new bridge would mean a 40-minute drive to Swartz Bay from Duncan, and would generate immense economic benefits for the Cowichan region.

Without Duke Point and the other two terminals, BC Ferries could finally provide cost certainty for residents and businesses throughout coastal B.C. Finally, the improvements in freight shipping from a new container terminal would lower the costs of trade for coastal businesses, attract new investments in value-added industry, and improve the availability of consumer goods for islanders. Until we return to treating BC Ferries as an extension of the highway system, such long term planning is simply not possible.

Chris Crowther