The "hot topic" of a highway link from the Vancouver area to B.C.'s Sunshine Coast will now get a $250,000 government study to see if its feasible, according to B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone.
R.F. Binnie, a Vancouver-based civil engineering firm, has been contracted to study a range of possibilities to connect to the Sunshine Coast to the Lower Mainland.
"We have heard from lots and lots of folks particularly in communities along the Sunshine Coast that say look, we would like our government to do a current analysis of the costs and the benefits of a fixed link in comparison to the existing ferry services," said Stone.
The Sunshine Coast, including the communities of Gibsons, Sechelt and Powell River, is on the B.C. mainland, but cut off from the Vancouver area by deep inlets — and accessible by ferry or air, but not by road.
A ferry trip from Horseshoe Bay, north of Vancouver, to Langdale on the Sunshine Coast takes about 40 minutes. The return trip costs $15.85 per adult, plus $53 for a standard vehicle.
Stone called the current situation an "impediment to trade and tourism," but also said any possible highway link would be a "mega project" that could take a decade.
"This would be a very, very significant infrastructure project," said Stone.
The study will consider four possible connections, including bridge connections along the coast, or a highway link around Jervis Inlet, Stone said.
"This issue has been a hot topic as long as I can remember and I look forward to meeting with the communities to hear their perspectives," said Jordan Sturdy, MLA for West Vancouver-Sea to Sky, in a release.
The study is expected to be complete in late fall 2016.