Two Kootenay regional directors are thrilled with the announcement that new ferries will be constructed for Glade and Harrop, but some residents in their communities continue to pine for the installation of a fixed link.
“We’re pretty happy we’re getting a new ferry because we just had our capacity cut by a Transport Canada ruling down to 50,” said Area E director Ramona Faust.
That will create problems come September, because there are at least 38 elementary school students who take the bus each morning.
Starting on September 6, that may cause back-ups.
“The fact we’ll have a new ferry in three years means the pain won’t go on forever.”
But some haven’t given up on the idea of a bridge.
“There is a group of concerned citizens who have met about the ferry since the capacity was cut and I think you’ll find there’s a difference of opinion even among them. I think anything at this point that will see us into the next 20 years will be welcomed.”
Andy Davidoff of Area I said some residents are hostile to the idea of a bridge.
“If you go across the river, the people there have a quality of life similar to the Gulf Islands, where you have a degree of isolation and privacy, whereas some other people want the convenience of having a bridge.”
But either way, his constituents would like to see the cost comparison between the two projects to confirm that replacing the ferry is the most “efficacious” route to go.
“If the ministry has determined this is the cheaper, most efficient way to go then we welcome all the enhancements. For some of my constituents replacing the ferry is not the first choice but at the end of the day we all deserve to see the cost-benefit analysis.”
He hopes the higher capacity of the new ferry will allow more commercial vehicles to make the trip, and expressed hope that the river ramps will be upgraded.
“There are really rapid fluctuations of the river at Glade because of BC Hydro. They control the water going through each dam in the Kootenays as part of the canal agreement.”
Faust said conversations with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) have been collaborative and respectful.
“We have lots of good relationships and partnerships with MOTI, and this is the back and forth of being a community.”
That being said, she thinks there could be more consideration for the specifics demands of their community. The news of reduced capacity came shortly before the busy wedding season, and she’s concerned it may affect their hosing of the upcoming MS Bike Tour.
“I know everyone does the best they can, and we’re thankful for that, but perhaps we need a little more consideration for the lives we lead.”
Ministry: ferries trump bridge for affordability
Though some residents of Harrop and Glade remain ambivalent about the upcoming replacement of the ferries in their community, according to the Ministry of Transportation it’s the cheaper of the two options.
“For both the Harrop and Glade ferries a cost analysis was completed and it was determined that ferries continue to offer the most affordable solution, now and for the forseeable future,” wrote public affairs officer Sonia Lowe.
However, the ministry won’t be able to share their findings with the public until the tender process closes in February 2016. Renewing these two ferries falls under the province’s B.C. on the Move transportation plan.
Lowe said the new ferries will “be able to take more vehicles than existing ferries, with capacity increased to handle commercial vehicles at full highway loads.”
The bidding process will be open for approximately five weeks, and up to three respondents will be shortlisted for the second stage: request for proposals. If all goes according to plan the first vessel will begin construction in 2016, with all vessels expected to be in service by the end of 2018.
The new Glade ferry will be able to hold 9 vehicles, while the new Harrop one will be able to hold 24.
“The existing cable ferries serving those communities have now reached the end of their working life,” she said, noting that last year B.C.’s inland ferries carried approximately 1.5 million vehicles and 2.2 million passengers.