Planning for the redevelopment of the Crofton ferry terminal has been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
BC Ferries spokesman Darin Guenette said the draft plans for the project are complete and awaiting internal approvals, but the impact of the pandemic has caused a slowdown of all the Crown corporation’s capital projects, including the Crofton ferry terminal upgrades.
“Despite easing of travel restrictions, we are forecasting a sustained downturn in passenger and vehicle traffic for the next two to three years and financial losses consistent with this downturn,” Guenette said.
“Some initiatives, investments and non-core services will likely be put on hold until business conditions improve, and we are working to understand what this means for our various projects. In some cases, we will be looking to get more life out of our existing assets and slow down replacement of these assets.”
At North Cowichan’s council meeting last week, Mayor Al Siebring suggested the municipality contact BC Ferries CEO Mark Collins and ask that the Crown corporation inform the community of the status of the upgrades, and the timelines of when the planning will resume and eventual construction should be expected to begin.
BC Ferries stated late last year, months before the health crisis began, that a draft plan for the upgrades was expected to be ready by early 2020.
Siebring said the issue arose during a recent conference call with residents of Crofton.
He said the residents were concerned about the apparent lack of progress with the upgrades as they were expecting some movement forward on the project soon.
“The reality is that BC Ferries has put a hold on all the projects in its capital development plan due to the financial implications of the COVID-19 crisis,” Siebring told council.
“This has not been well communicated throughout the community by BC Ferries and we should reach out to CEO Mark Collins to provide more clarity and certainty with the project.”
Guenette said when ready, BC Ferries intends to do more targeted community outreach regarding changes to its local plans once the corporation has more details regarding which projects will be affected and how.
He said it will take BC Ferries some time to fully appreciate and measure the full impacts of COVID-19, and it is asking for people’s patience and understanding as the corporation works out the timing and details of this communication.
“As I am sure you are aware, these are difficult and challenging times, and the situation we face is dynamic and fluid,” Guenette said.
“Please know that we value the interests of the Crofton community, our Crofton-Vesuvius route customers and other key stakeholders and will be reaching out in due course. Sorry I could not provide any timelines for either when the project may commence or possible physical changes at the terminal, but we have to do the other analysis and planning prior to re-starting any project plans.”
In February 2019, the terminal development team, along with staff from various other BC Ferries departments, began the process of creating a long-term plan for the Crofton terminal.
They worked alongside community representatives on formulating four preliminary concepts, and that was whittled down to two last November after discussions were held with North Cowichan, Paper Excellence, Ministry of Transportation, Halalt First Nation and the Salt Spring Ferry Advisory Committee, while taking community input into account.
At the time, the first concept for the ferry upgrades included rebuilding the existing trestle to the ferry and making it wider; improved pedestrian accessibility; a dedicated pick-up/drop-off spot, long-term parking and expanded boat trailer parking off Chaplin Street; and a separation of local and ferry traffic along Chaplin while retaining the skate park at its current location.
The second concept included creating a new trestle and making the existing one a pedestrian pier; retaining and enhancing the current boat launch; an optional long-term parking lot off Chaplin Street; and a waterfront parking lot amid a pedestrian park and plaza.