Third route to the Coast?

A vision of connecting the Southern Interior to the Sunshine Coast by a more direct overland highway is a “hot idea” that’s gaining ground, the president of the Third Crossing Society said Friday.

Gary Fribance said the group will continue to campaign for the road.

“What we’re talking about with the Third Crossing is a new vision for the province.”

Richard Furness, secretary for the society, appeared before Thompson Nicola regional directors Thursday and reminded them of the changes brought to the Interior by the Coquihalla Highway after its completion 30 years ago. 

“We ask that directors remember the Coquihalla and voice their support,” Furness said. 

He said the 173-kilometre highway, including a three-kilometre tunnel, could be built for as little as $600 million. Savings in terms of ferry costs would be reduced by $800 million, resulting in no net cost to taxpayers. Alternatively, a toll could be imposed to pay for the road, Furness said.

The society, based in Powell River, sees its plan as an extension of the province’s current $250,000 study looking at ways of better connecting the Sunshine Coast through a fixed highway link. 

At the same time, they also tout major economic benefits for Interior communities with an alternative circle route for highway travellers from the U.S.

Despite the purported benefits to the Interior, the plan drew a varied and somewhat skeptical response from the board, which voted to send a letter of thanks but not a letter of support. 

“There is a void in the province,” said Steve Rice, area director for Spences Bridge, referring to highway connections.

“I would think Mr. Stone would love this as a feather in his cap,” said Coun. Tina Lange, alluding to the highways and infrastructure minister from Kamloops. “Put a fire under his ass.” 

If the calculations are correct, the project would not cost anyone any money, she added.

Ken Gillis of Pritchard called the no-net-cost claim a pipe dream.



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