Elected officials discussed the concept of a north connector that would link the Old Island Highway to the Inland Island Highway at a Thursday forum at the regional district boardroom.
In a presentation to CVRD directors and municipal councillors, City of Courtenay CAO David Allen said the “circuitous” route from Veterans Memorial Parkway to Piercy Road is indirect and confusing with limited capacity, especially at the single-lane Tsolum River Bridge.
The solution would be a two-kilometre stretch with a new bridge that would be a primary link from the airport to Mount Washington.
A connector would support development activity, such as the 1,000 new residential units proposed north of the Puntledge and a 2,500-unit proposal at Raven Ridge. It would also increase safety and emergency response times, improve road spacing and network redundancy, and support business and tourism.
By increasing capacity and accessibility, Allen said a north connector could help relieve pressure at Puntledge and Courtenay river crossings, and at routes into and through downtown.
“I think it’s vital we get it done,” Area B director Jim Gillis said.
Valley delegates discussed the proposal with Transportation Minister Todd Stone at the recent Union of B.C. Municipalities convention — but the Province is “running a tight ship” in terms of spending in the near future, Allen cautioned.
Comox Mayor Paul Ives suggests efforts might be better focused on replacing the bridge.
“Money is going to be tight,” he said, noting the Province plans to replace the Massey Tunnel south of Vancouver by 2017.
Comox Coun. Barbara Price concurs a concerted effort to make a plea for a bridge might be a better idea.
“The issue is not a bridge, it’s the north connector, which includes a bridge,” said Courtenay director Jon Ambler.
But Ambler also feels the idea of the one-way Tsolum River Bridge serving as a permanent cog in the local traffic system “shows badly on the Comox Valley.
“The concept of eliminating a choke point is well worth doing,” he said. “If you have another bridge, you have another opportunity. This is an opportunity to make things better for the entire Comox Valley.”