Ferry terminal repair costs exceed $300,000

Costs to repair and reinforce the trestle and passenger walkway at the downtown Nanaimo B.C. Ferries terminal have surpassed $300,000.

Costs to repair and reinforce the trestle and passenger walkway at the downtown Nanaimo B.C. Ferries terminal have surpassed $300,000.

Ferry service between Nanaimo and Gabriola Island was scheduled to return to normal today (Sept. 1) as repairs to a damaged trestle are complete.

Vehicle traffic to and from the island was rerouted to the Duke Point ferry terminal Aug. 12 after a Royal Paving truck loaded with asphalt drove onto the passenger walkway, collapsing a portion of the trestle. Foot passengers had to board a water taxi at the Nanaimo Boat Basin.

The ferry corporation continues to investigate the incident.

Deborah Marshall, B.C. Ferries spokeswoman, said repair costs are about $300,000 and there are added costs of the water taxi as well as additional staff at the Duke Point terminal.

“It was a big job. We had Vancouver Pile Driving on site as well as our terminal maintenance crew,” she said. “We had a lot of co-operation from the Nanaimo Port Authority who had Van Pile scheduled to do work over on their property. They were accommodating enough to switch the schedule around. That was a big help to us.”

B.C. Ferries knew the walkway was not reinforced for vehicle weight and had told Royal Paving that, said Marshall.

“For whatever reason, the vehicle did go over onto the cantilevered portion and it gave way,” she said. “We are conducting a divisional inquiry into the incident which will take several months to conclude.”

Marshall wouldn’t comment on whether the ferry corporation would seek compensation from Royal Paving for the cost of the repairs.

Don Howell of Royal Paving also declined to comment while the incident is under investigation.

Meanwhile, regular service  on the route was scheduled to begin Thursday (Sept. 1) with the 5:25 a.m. sailing from Gabriola.

Penny Hawley, who commutes to Nanaimo for work Monday to Friday via the water taxi, said while there were only slight inconveniences, it will be good to return to normal.

“There were some initial hiccups right after the accident,” she said. “It took me two an a half hours to get home on [Aug. 16] because the water taxi was sold out for five o’clock. A few of us had slight meltdowns”

Hawley e-mailed B.C. Ferries the next day suggesting an extra water taxi be available between 4-6 p.m. on weekdays.

“They put another taxi on and except for a few people being left behind, it’s been fine,” she said.  “They have been very accommodating.”

Kathy Ramsey, chairwoman of the Gabriola Theatre Festival, which ran during the terminal disruption, said she cannot believe B.C. Ferries did not put up signage on the Island Highway informing drivers of the changes to the Gabriola route.

“I don’t know how many people told me they flew right by the Duke Point turnoff only to be told in Nanaimo they had to go back,” she said. “I understand it’s an emergency and something has to be put in place, but the fact they didn’t make it any easier to find Gabriola is frustrating. It’s just another in a long line of issues we have with B.C. Ferries.”

Marshall said all things considered, the service worked quite well.

“It was obviously an unfortunate incident that we had to have the alternate service in place, but having the water taxi to get foot passengers right downtown was important,” she said, adding that any decision on having the Gabriola route run full-time between the island and Duke Point would be up to the province.

“It has been talked about in the past. We put forward an efficiencies report to the government nearly a year ago, but changing the route would be a government decision,” she said.