By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Aug. 18, 2012
A group of Powell River residents want the province to fund a road that will connect Powell River to Squamish.
The Third Crossing Society, a citizens group in Powell River, is advocating for a road they say will provide a third crossing from the Island, while creating a transportation corridor to the BC Interior.
It will require the building of 30 kilometers of new road and upgrading 185 kilometers of existing logging roads between Powell River and the Sea to Sky Highway.
The route would go from Highway 10 of the Upper Sunshine Coast and connect to Highway 99 through Squamish Valley Road and Brackendale.
The society’s president, Tom Wheeler, said the road would benefit all the communities it connects.
It will, he said, relieve pressure on and extend the economic life of the existing southern ferry infrastructure, particularly the Horseshow Bay and other terminals.
It will also provide an emergency route through the mountains in the event of a major earthquake, provide an alternate route to the Interior traffic, and make better use of the Comox/ Powell River ferry.
But the real Road to Damascus moment, Wheeler hopes, would be way this road will spur the sluggish economy.
There is a long list of benefits the road can provide, Wheeler says.
“It will boost tourism, and provide for an efficient movement of goods and services,” Wheeler said.
“This is something that makes sense.”
It would have to make a lot of sense to the decision makers because there is a big cost attached to the project: An estimated $503 million.
A portion of that road, Wheeler agrees, would have to be cut through rough terrain.
Wheeler said he hopes the province can fund this project with some additional funding from the federal government.
“Perhaps there can be tolls on the roads, but I think we need this access route,” he said.
A similar road access has been planned before, he added.
In 1994 a proposed route was professionally mapped. The route was confirmed by helicopter flights.
In 2001 paper reconnaissance survey work was completed, digital mapping studies have been conducted and a proposed route, very similar to the 1994 route, was determined.
In 2006 a virtual “fly through”, based on digital TRIM mapping and aerial and satellite photography was conducted.
Squamish wood industry consultant Eric Andersen said a road link from Powell River to Squamish is an old idea—as old as the late 1850s Fraser River Gold Rush.
The route over the Ashlu River is, of course, an old trading route of the Sechelt and Squamish peoples.
“Today, there are logging roads throughout this Coast Range mountain district — almost connecting Jervis Inlet with the Upper Squamish drainage,” Andersen said.
Third Crossing Society’s Wheeler said the project has support from Powell River Regional Board, and from local councillors.
Members of the Third Crossing Society are soon planning a trip to Squamish to meet with the community and tell them about the road connection between Powell River and Squamish.