Saturday, June 22, 2024
June 22, 2024

Viewpoint: Route 6 and 4 changes will be significant

By Harold Swierenga

The Salt Spring Island Ferry Advisory Committee (SSIFAC) would like to provide some clarifications and updates regarding the plans for the Vesuvius Bay ferry terminal and Route 6.

When it was confirmed last year that the replacement of the 64-vehicle Quinsam with twin 47-vehicle Island Class ferries and reconstruction of the Vesuvius and Crofton terminals were scheduled for 2027, it was obvious a new experience was coming to ferry travel on Route 6. There had been many discussions, meetings, proposals and plans over the years between BC Ferries, the SSI FAC and the public, and now the plans were firming up.

However, as with any capital projects, funding is a constant underlying factor and we are not surprised that completion of the work will be staged to some extent as funding becomes available. A major role of the SSIFAC is to focus on ensuring that all aspects of the project are completed regardless of the timeframe and staging involved.

The two critically essential and costly elements of the project are the Island Class ferries themselves and the rebuilding/life extensions of the trestles and berths to accommodate them in both Vesuvius and Crofton. The two elements are interdependent and scheduled to be in place and functioning in early 2027. A major additional feature of the new berth in Vesuvius is the provision for lineup parking on the trestle, thus reducing the lineup pressure on the land-side holding lot and the street. This additional planned capacity will be significant, but the other huge factor, of course, in resolving the lineups on the streets in both Vesuvius and Crofton will be the increased combined capacity and much more frequent sailings of the twin Island Class ships. Vehicles will be underway to the other side of the channel rather than taking up parking space on shore to the extent they do now.

Other planned features of the Vesuvius berth will be the elimination of the 90-degree turn in the trestle, replaced by a sweeping curve, and a pedestrian shelter at the berth itself. A dedicated lane for pedestrians and cyclists from the land-side to the berth will be provided. A full waiting room and washrooms are planned for construction on the edge of the land-side parking area and will be among the SSIFAC’s highest priorities of the next phase of improvements. The SSIFAC will also be paying particular attention to the overall needs of cyclists and pedestrians, such as SSI Transit access, pedestrian drop-off and pick-up and bicycle parking etc.

When the Island Class ferries go into service on Route 6, the Quinsam now on that route will become available to provide additional “peak” period service on Route 4 (Fulford-Swartz Bay). The definition of “peak” period will need to be adjusted as traffic builds over time and the Quinsam would be needed on the route for longer periods each year over the years. Until 2027, the 10 round trips per day peak service will continue, but the SSIFAC is advocating for that service to start in early rather than late June.

The SSIFAC is extremely disappointed that financial constraints will require the Vesuvius terminal reconstruction work to be staged rather than entirely completed by early 2027, but we are confident that the Route 6 experience will be markedly enhanced. As planning continues and when construction proceeds there will be further opportunities for community input. As well, the actual berth construction will involve some temporary modifications of service, but we are confident that the end result will be well worth waiting for.

The writer is SSIFAC chair.

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