B.C. to study highway connection to Sunshine Coast

The B.C. government is considering building a fixed link to connect Vancouver to the Sunshine Coast, says Transportation Minister Todd Stone.

'Small town life and rural life would be affected,' says Sechelt mayor

A ferry is seen making its way into Horseshoe Bay, B.C., Monday, Oct. 11, 2010. The B.C. government plans to study the costs of a possible highway link to the Sunshine Coast. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

The B.C. government plans to study the feasibility of a highway or bridge connection to the province's Sunshine Coast, says Transportation Minister Todd Stone.

Right now, the only methods to travel from the Lower Mainland to the coastal region northwest of Vancouver is by air or by water — mainly ferry services.

In a statement, Transportation Minister Todd Stone said some Sunshine Coast residents say that highway access to the mainland would be good for the local economy.

"We've heard from stakeholders from Powell River to the Sunshine Coast that highway access is important for attracting tourism and investment," said Stone.

"Over the coming months, we'll look at the opportunities available and see how the costs and benefits stack up against the existing transportation options."

Two Sunshine Coast mayors welcomed the news.

Powell River Mayor David Formosa said a bridge or highway to Vancouver will help the region's economy and tourism industry.

Link could change coast's character: mayor

Sechelt Mayor Bruce Milne agreed.

"Transportation is always linked to a more thriving economy because you reduce the cost of movement of goods and people," he said.

However, Milne noted that some residents are concerned about the cultural impact on the region.

"If the access to the Lower Mainland and to Vancouver was 24 hours a day … the population would explode very quickly, and small town life and rural life would be affected."

Stone said over the coming months the government will weigh the current 40 minute ferry trip against a highway or a bridge connection along the coast.

The costs and benefits of those options will be compared to ferry services.

Jordan Sturdy, MLA for West Vancouver-Sea to Sky, will  meet with local leaders on the Sunshine Coast and in the Sea to Sky to gauge community interest in a highway link.

"While there are many who will embrace a more non-stop connection to Metro Vancouver, there are others who won't want to see such change," said Sturdy.

"As the costs and benefits of various links are assessed, it's important to hear first hand how communities feel about the possibilities."

The Ministry of Transportation is expected to issue a request for proposals wtihin the next few weeks to study a fixed link.

with files from CP

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