Replacing three ferry terminals in Nanaimo and the one in Tsawwassen could reduce fares and cut Island crossing times in half, says Andre Lemieux, the former chairman of the Gabriola Island ferry advisory committee, He pitched the idea to B.C. Ferries and the provincial transportation ministry. He proposes to sell the Tsawwassen terminal to pipeline company Kinder Morgan, to replace its Burnaby tanker terminal.
A new ferry terminal would go on Iona Island, adjacent to the Vancouver Airport.
A key element would be to allow Kinder Morgan to twin its Alberta oil pipeline, conditional upon buying the Tsawwassen terminal, which removes tanker traffic from the Vancouver harbour.
In Nanaimo, Departure Bay, Duke Point and Gabriola terminals would be sold off, with proceeds used to build a system of bridges across Mudge and Gabriola islands, to a new terminal on Valdes Island.
That would "reduce the distance from the mainland to Vancouver Island in half," Lemieux said in his written submission.
He estimates savings of 30 to 50 per cent, and better service.
B.C. Ferries Darin Guenette spokesman declined to comment, saying terminal rationalization is "more the purview of the provincial government." Lemieux, a Gabriolan, knows a bridge would be unpopular on the island, but the need to control B.C. Ferries costs outweighs Gulf Islanders' wishes.
"I'm not saying I'm in favour of a bridge - I enjoy the ferry system but if the rest of the province decides they need a terminal, what the people of Gabriola say is no big deal," Lemieux said.
"Three ferries in Nanaimo is very inefficient - look at the Washington State ferry
system, it's far more efficient."
Opposition ferry critic Claire Trevena, who spent this week touring the Washington system, said a problem with Lemieux's plan is it assumes riders must solve a government problem.
"B.C. Liberals look at it as a private operation and that view has been pushed on the public for the past 10 years," Trevena said.
"We need to do as Washington State does and make it part of the highway system."
B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone could not be reached for comment.
Joe Stanhope, Regional District of Nanaimo board chairman, said Gabriolans "would absolutely go crazy having a highway on their island."
Rather than close terminals, he said he and fellow regional district representatives who make up the Coastal Chairs Committee will keep up pressure on government to make B.C. Ferries part of the provincial transportation system once again.
"Basically, ferries are our highways," Stanhope said.
Tony Law, co-chairman of the Ferries Advisory Committee Chairs group, said the plan is too complex, "and we've got a government right now that is trying to curtail spending, so it's hard to see them putting money into this."
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