By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: July 28, 2016
They are calling it the road to prosperity. Speaking to the Squamish council recently,Third Crossing Society director Gary Fribance said a road connection from Powell River to Squamish will drive tourism, boost the economy, reduce traffic bottlenecks at the ferry terminals and string together coastal and interiors communities.
The Third CrossingSociety, a citizens group in Powell River, was here to ask for district of Squamish’s support for a road they say will provide a third crossing from the Island. The route would go from Highway 10 of the Upper Sunshine Coast and connect to Highway 99 through Squamish Valley Road and Brackendale. It would require the building of 42 kilometers of new road and upgrading 185 kilometers of existing logging roads between Powell River and the Sea to Sky Highway. “We propose this third crossing – and the road from Port Mellon to Hwy 99 – with one eye on the present but with both eyes on the future – to a freedom of movement bound to attract retirees, businesses and investors, while relieving some of the congestion in the Lower Mainland and its attendant costs,” Fribance said.
He said the residents on the Island have no real access to the Mainland from Vancouver all the way to Prince Rupert. Gary said one has to travel 500 miles north to reach the Second Crossing, Highway 16, which serves the resource belt, stretching from the port of Prince Rupert east to Prince George and further to Alberta and beyond. The time has come, he said for a Third Crossing, a new mid-province highway that can be stimulate the economies of more than half of Vancouver Island and the vast area north of the Lower Mainland. It’d be good for the economy as it brings new tourists while creating new playground for tourists and retirement havens for winter-weary seniors from across Canada. The roads would also ease the congestion on the ferry, he added.
Gary said the with the closure of two paper mills, and upwardly spiralling ferry fares, the coastal communities have fallen on hard times and their economy needs adjustment which can be provided by a mid-province corridor linking the vast regional economies of northern Vancouver Island and the area north of the Lower Mainland.
“Much of the infrastructure is already there and only needs improvements. Logging roads, upgraded to highway standards, connected by a modest 42 km of new road and one three-kilometre tunnel, would complete the connection. Do that, et voila, the province has its third crossing, the Port Mellon to HWY 99 connector,” he said.
The new highway would remove much of the congestion at the main ferry terminals in the south and produce enough operating and other savings at BC Ferries ($855 million) to pay for itself ($600 million), 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. In 2015, BC government announced it will study the costs and benefits of a possible highway link between the Sunshine Coast and Metro Vancouver. The government said it plans to explore a number of potential connections ranging from a highway link around Jervis Inlet, to direct bridge connections along the coast. The costs and benefits of each will be assessed, and compared with ferry services. The BC government has put out a RFP for this study.