The provincial government has announced $28 million in funding for ferry operations.
The Way Forward: A Five-Year Provincial Marine Infrastructure Plan promises improvements at ferry terminals.
It’s the first time a multi-year plan has been rolled out for marine services and includes plans for upgrades to southwest coast ferries including the Rose Blanche-LaPoile service.
Rose Blanche Mayor Clayton Durnford thinks the project is a wonderful idea and will provide long-term benefits to the area.
The town’s historic lighthouse is a huge draw for summer tourists and they often take the scenic short ferry trip as well. Durnford thinks LaPoile residents will probably appreciate the new facilities the most.
“It’s good news and long overdue for people going back and forth who use it every day,” he said.
The Mayor is also hoping that the upgrades will put pressure on a local business owner to clean up the old fish plant, which has become an eyesore.
Burgeo Mayor Barbara Barter is also pleased about the new upgrades but would have appreciated more details with regards to exactly what funding was available.
In a letter to TC Media she wrote:
“If Government is using assessment tools (e.g. OH&S, age of assets, and structural assessments) to build their five-year plan, they should be able to inform communities as to what they may get, based on current fiscal realities, over the five-year term. That being said, the idea of a long-term plan is long overdue, and as a living document a yearly update should influence the quality of the plan.”
Transportation and Works Minister Al Hawkins also spoke with TC Media about the plan.
“The long-term planning is going to give us better value for our money and better ways to provide services,” he said.
Hawkins is hopeful that a multi-year plan for marine services will follow suit with the multi-year plan for roadwork and tenders so the work can go out earlier than usual.
“We've also listened to the complaints and concerns of the people using the ferry service,” he said. “We have talked with ferry committees and engineers and taken all that information into consideration.”
Hawkins admitted the terminal conditions have been “less than ideal” for the public and tourists availing of the services and now government is setting out to make “big improvements.”
Each ferry location across the province has been allocated funds.
Hawkins noted that each fiscal year the department will update the projects to be completed.
“There’s flexibility to the plan, ” he said. “If something happens that causes priorities to shift, than we will work around that.”