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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Missing Link

I just read a comment posted this morning on one of my articles: How Much is an Election Really Worth? The comment was sent in by Cyril and speaks about our ferry service from the Island portion of the province into Canada. This comment started me thinking about our physical connection to the rest of the country and just how tenuous it really is.

As anyone who has visited this site knows, I have a hyperlink from this page to the web page of the NL Fixed Link Project, (on the right side of the page). I’ve had this link up for a while and I’ve scanned the site on occasion. It was Cyril’s comments that made me decide to pop over there again today and look at it more closely. I have to say, I’m impressed. These folks really appear to have done their homework and they truly make the link sound possible.

I know, it’s been a dream of many of us for decades, but it does indeed seem possible if the proponents of the link have done their homework and if the will of government and business is strong enough. The plan identified on the Fixed Link site includes the ability to transport people, electricity and oil/gas. It looks like a winning combination but why don’t you check out the site for yourself and let me know what you think.

I have a great interest in the type of outside the box thinking that has gone into this plan and I have to agree with people like Cyril, the ferry service we now have just doesn’t cut it. During the winter there is only the link from Port Aux Basques. During the summer months the lineups can be endless. You can sometimes see the tractor trailers lined up in huge numbers, just waiting to get across. I don’t even want to guess what this costs you or me when we go to the grocery or dry goods or hardware store. Time is money. How it plays with potential tourists is anyone’s guess, but I bet they don’t plan on spending hours or perhaps days in a ferry lineup.

A connection to Canada was guaranteed when we joined Confederation. The Government of Canada owes us that much. How well that connection works or how much money the Government puts into it is a matter for debate. I mean isn’t it time we took a more serious and determined look at alternatives?

We have pretty good reasons for wanting more stable access to the rest of the country, don’t we?

We are not talking about the type of ferry service most people in the country think of when they talk about ferry services. We’re not talking about connecting a small island in a sheltered bay. Nor are we talking about an island with a few hundred people, or a 20 minute ferry ride. No, what we are talking about is crossing 90 miles of open North Atlantic Ocean during all kinds of weather, about a province of this country that is virtually cut off and dependent on a supply chain that is dependent on a ferry boat and weather conditions. We are talking about a population of half a million people and we are talking about a scenic country side that is a tourist’s dream. They just need a better, faster and more convenient way to get here.

I know it is a big effort to build a fixed link. I know it may only be a dream for now. I also know that if a national will was there, it could be done. The transcontinental railway that opened up the continent is a prime example of that kind of will. So is the fixed link to PEI.

Here is another example of will. In the mid nineties Japan was facing land space problems. They needed a new international airport but didn’t have the space. They didn’t have the land so they built the land. Kansai Airport rests on a man made island offshore. The main terminal building is 1.7 kilometers long and the airport serves over 11 million passengers a year. The freight trans shipment building is one of the largest in the world and manages millions of packages and containers a year. Construction of the island, airport and connecting bridge (rail and vehicle traffic across 5 kilometers of ocean), took over 7 years and cost billions of dollars to complete. Outside the box thinking and the will to carry it out has made Kansai a world wide hub for travelers and freight traffic alike.

Anything man can think of, he can accomplish. All it takes is the will to carry it out.


J.J said...

Listen, I doubt we will ever see a link. The first priority needs to be getting decent roads across Labrador. There is no point linking up the island if you can't get past southern Lab once you get across.

Folks in Lab have been fighting for that for years without any success.

BJay said...

I here where your coming from, j.j., but I think a fixed link would benefit both the Island and Labrador alike. With the fixed link, the infrastructure will be needed in Labrador. This will bring new money and jobs, and will become a long-term revenue source for Labrador, with all those travelers rolling through.

The flip side is to stay status quo, whereby Labrador isn't in the equation because the ferry takes us to NS.

This fixed link would be, I think, a bigger win for Labrador than the Island portion. Finally, Labrador may not be so 'Out of Sight, Out of Mind'.

Murray K. said...

Looks like they might get us 3 new ferries for the service at a cost of just under 1 billion. When you add the cost of maint. fuel, staffing, etc. A fixed link might be cheaper in the long run. Not to mention more beneficial in getting electricity and oil/gas in and out of the province.

Jerry said...

It'll never work. Nice dream though.

J.J. said...

Will we ever see the day. I don't think so.