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Bridge-to-mainland idea dead in the water

Jan 26 2012

Cash-strapped motorists frustrated with rising ticket prices at B.C. Ferries may dream of a bridge between Vancouver Island and the mainland. But don't get your hopes up, the government says.

"The bridge question has been out there for many years. Right now, it just doesn't seem feasible," said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Blair Lekstrom.

"There have been reports. We're in well over

$10 billion to develop that kind of bridge. And, of course, there's all kind of issues that come with that. So a bridge is not really in the cards right now, I can tell you that."

The most recent government information on an Island-mainland bridge is from 2004 when the Transportation Ministry launched a webpage dedicated to exploring the idea.

The government pegged costs at between $8 billion and $12 billion, and said motorists would likely face tolls of between $260 and $800 for a one-way trip. The estimates, which are now almost 10 years old, would likely be considerably higher today.

Government also listed a host of engineering and logistical problems.

Such a bridge would be the longest of its kind in the world — up to 26 kilometres, or more than twice the size of Confederation Bridge at Prince Edward Island.

Boring a tunnel would be too expensive, submerging a floating tunnel too risky, and floating a bridge too unsafe, the government said.

Whatever the type of bridge or tunnel, it would probably have to start near Nanaimo or Duncan to find the shortest route to Greater Vancouver. Deep water (up to 365 metres), a soft ocean bed, potential earthquakes, extreme waves, windspeeds up to 180 km/h, and the threat of a crash with passing boats remain big hurdles, according to the ministry website.

A mega-bridge does not appear to be on the NDP's radar, either.

"I researched this out and the engineers say it can't be done," said NDP ferries critic Gary Coons.

"I don't think it's feasible."

rshaw@timescolonist.com

For more on the bridge question go to www.th.gov.bc.ca/publications/reports_and_studies/fixed_link/fixed_link.htm

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