Saturday, February 07, 2009

Hey what happened to the bridge idea?

The City of Prince Rupert is about to begin the process of exploring the potential for road access to Lax Kw'alaams, but don't go looking for a bridge any time soon.

While long time dream of a majestic bridge to cross Prince Rupert harbour may still quicken the hearts of some local politicians, the more likely scenario in the short term will be a redesigned and relocated ferry dock on the Digby Island side (and eventually a new ferry to dock at it), that at least seems to be the prospect as outlined by Mayor Jack Mussallem.

The Mayor and City Public Works and Engineering General Manager Bob Thompson outlined the latest revision to the access project plans, which would see a short bridge between Metlakatla and Digby Island and then improved Ferry Service between Digby and Prince Rupert.

That's a move that will surprise some of the local bridge boosters, who have long sought out a fixed link between the city and it's airport and beyond up to Lax Kw'alaams. Those that are in favour of the bridge concept will no doubt outline the cost of a bridge, compared to the ongoing expense of staffing and maintaining a civic owned ferry, all be it with an apparent new mandate should the latest idea come to pass.

The feasibility study into the latest new direction in access is expected to be completed by September, while that study goes on the bridge debate may find new life during the upcoming provincial election, which will see former Mayor and access proponent Herb Pond challenging incumbent MLA Gary Coons.

It will be with interest for the community to learn of the candidates impressions on the latest turn of the ongoing debate into a connection to Digby Island and beyond.

City paves way to Lax Kw’alaams
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Friday, February 6, 2009
Page two

The city is moving forward with its goal of beginning the Tsimshian Peninsula Access Project.

Both Mayor Jack Mussallem and General Manager of Engineering and Public works Bob Thompson have confirmed that a project feasibility study will be underway soon and said they expect it to be complete by September.

Mussallem has made it clear since he announced his candidacy for mayor that this was his infrastructure planning priority number dne.

During the past decade, there have been 13 studies at a cost of $1 million commissioned for the project but t.he province has not guaranteed any action yet. Yesterday's announcement does not mean a guarantee that the project will see shovels hit the ground soon but it does bring it closer to a reality. The old plans included having a long suspension bridge stretching across the harbour and near Dodge Cove but those plans have been thrown out in favour of a shorter bridge from Metlakatla to Digby Island and better ferry service from Kaien Island to Digby Island.

"Down the road, the city will be looking at purchasing a new ferry boat for service but for right now we are looking at bringing the ferry dock on Digby Island closer to Prince Rupert," said Thompson.

Under a recently signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOUl. tbe communities of Metlakatla, Lax Kw'alaams, Prince Rupert and the District of Port Edward have signed on with the BC Ministry ofTransportation to undertake additional analysis, looking at the improved ferry access to Digby Island.

The cost of the study will be $310,000, with all parties contributing to study costs - the city of Prince Rupert picking up $100,000, the provincial government will pick up $100,000 and the two First Nations communities each will pick up $50,000.

For the better part of a decade, the need for the TAP has received political support from representatives including former Mayor Herb Pond and current MLA Gary Coons, who look now to be going head-to-head in the provincial election come May.

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