Map above shows elevations at points along the eastern section of the new, shorter, route of the Third Crossing, from just north of Squamish to Vancouver Bay on Jervis Inlet. (Courtesy Paul Jones.)  Below, the western section, making its way around Hotham Sound to Saltery Bay.

Before we abandoned the route around the end of Jervis Inlet in favour of the new, shorter route across it, we had to gather more information about the new route and the work it would entail:

  • The feasibility of a clear-span suspension bridge over Jervis, a wide and very deep body of water;
  • The attitudes of the First Nations whose traditional lands the route would traverse;
  • The ease or difficulty of the terrain for road building;
  • The suitability of Hotham Sound for an extension of the Port of Vancouver;
  • How much it would help metro Vancouver with its congestion problem;
  • The attitudes of stakeholders in the Port of Vancouver.

 

We have already done some preliminary research into these matters, as follows:

The bridge: The narrowest point on Jervis Inlet lies just north of Hotham Sound and the mouth of the Vancouver River, where the width is 1.5 kilometres and the depth about 106 metres. (See Google Earth image, right.)

Previous research suggested that 1.5 km was too long for a suspension bridge of that span, and a depth of 106 metres is too deep for supporting pylons.  However, late last year, in the course of preliminary enquiries at a large international engineering firm, we were assured that such a bridge is indeed possible – others like it hav

The Akashi Kaiko bridge in Japan, with a clear span of 1.991 km between supports, about the distance required to bridge Jervis Inlet. Below: Here’s the view looking northeast up Hotham Sound, toward the probable site of a suspension bridge.

e been built in Japan, China and elsewhere.  (See photo, below right.) At the Jervis crossing, the pylons would be close to the shoreline, in shallow water.

 

First Nations: Through others, we are attempting to set up meetings with, and make presentations to, the Sechelt and Squamish First Nations.  Whether a port is consistent with their objectives and aspirations remains to be seen, but there are many positives, and thus many grounds for optimism.  For example, subject to a geological assessment, Mt. Foley, on the eastern approach to Hotham Sound, appears to be an ideal location for the Shishalh Nation’s future gravel operation.

The terrain:  Using Google Earth, we scouted the terrain starting on the Ashlu Mine Road where it veers west from the Squamish Valley Road, ascends to the foothills of Mount Chimai, then descends to the Vancouver River and proceeds west to a point just north of Hotham Sound on Jervis Inlet.  We found few difficulties.  (Details at “Distances and Elevations,” below.)

Hotham Sound:  On a scouting trip along logging roads on the shores of  Hotham and St. Vincent Bay, we saw more than enough land suitable for the operation of a port, and water deep enough for even the largest of the new container ships.

 

Transport Canada: Marc Garneau, federal Minister of Transport, recently announced a study to determine the adequacy of Canada’s current port facilities for the future.  He called for input, and we are now working with others to evaluate the possibilities.

Port of Vancouver:    Discussions with the major players at the Port – tenants, shipping companies, railroads and others – will begin at the earliest practical opportunity.

Access to highways and railroads: Kamloops is a transportation hub that gathers vehicle traffic from the North Okanagan and all points east, the North Thompson, Edmonton, and points north.  The CNR and CPR also marshal at Kamloops.  Then all turn south to the congestion of metro Vancouver.

Some of that traffic could continue west, pick up more from the Cariboo north of Cache Creek, then continue west to Lillooet and Whistler – all on Highway 99, an existing paved highway, en route to the proposed port on Hotham Sound.

Looking east from St. Vincent Bay. Elephant Point and much of its peninsula (elevation 294 metres) can be pushed into the shallow water to increase the foreshore and improve the marine side depth.

Distances and elevation on the new route

Leg one:      Beginning  on Highway 99 between Whistler and Squamish (49.7874º N X -123.1338º W X 144m of elevation) follow the Squamish River Road to the west for about 20 km to the confluence of the Squamish and Ashlu Rivers (49.914ºN X – 123.2927º W X 41m.  Elevation difference: -103m.  Average gradient = 103/20,000 = 0.005 % (essentially flat).

Leg two:      Turn left across the bridge just upstream of the confluence and follow the Ashlu river to its confluence with Falk Creek, about 10km (49.9759º N X -123.4875º W X 488 m elevation).  Elevation difference: +447 m.  Average gradient = 447/10,000 = 0.005 % (again, essentially flat).

Leg three:   Follow Falk Creek for about 8 km to Falk Pass (49.9535º X – 123.6058º W X 1377 m elevation),  near Falk Lake.  Elevation change: +889m.  Average gradient = 889/8000 = 11.1%.  (This leg is too steep for rail traffic and probably the roadway.  Further study required.)

Marine chart shows 25 square kilometres on the shores of St. Vincent Bay that can be adapted to the operation of a port.

Leg four:     Descend the Vancouver River for about 42 km to Vancouver Bay on Jervis (49.9226º N X  – 123.8795º W X 0m elevation). Actually, the descent will only be to the approach to the bridge.  For now we are assuming that that will be at 200 m, so the elevation difference from Falk Pass will be 689m.  Average gradient = 689/42,000 = 0.012%  (again, essentially flat).

Leg five:      Now cross the future Jervis suspension bridge and proceed south down the west side of Hotham Sound and St. Vincent Bay.  Net elevation change is zero, but parts of this leg are on steep side hills.

The net gradient is approximately 0%, but additional detail  work is needed.

Leg six:        Proceed on existing logging roads to Highway 101 west of  Saltery Bay.  Average gradient is nominal.  (Scroll down to see Leg 6 on Google Earth map.)

The bridge

We learned that a suspension bridge (the Xihoumen) had opened in China in 2009.  The longest span between its pylons was 1650 metres (greater than the narrowest point on Jervis).  Its reported cost was US$363 million (we suspect that that figure is incorrect).

Map shows Mount Foley, across from St. Vincent Bay, where another 20 square kilometres of land can be adapted to a port operation

Earlier, in 1998, the Akashi Kaikyo suspension bridge opened in Japan.  Its total length was 3911 metres and its longest span 1991 metres.  It has six lanes of roadway and four emergency lanes.  The cost was US$3.6 billion (based on 1998 exchange rates).  Cost per square metre US$15,000.

Currently the Turks are building a bridge across the Dardanelles.  Its total length and longest span are 3869 and 2023 metres respectively.  It is 36 metres wide (three lanes in each direction).  Construction started on March 18, 2017 and is expected to end in 2022.  The budget is US$2.8 billion.  Cost per square metre     US$20,103

So what about a bridge at Jervis Inlet?

We were able to arrange a meeting – a sanity check, if you like – with a large international engineering firm with significant experience building large span bridges.  We showed them an elevation map of Jervis Inlet and discussed the matter for about an hour.  The outcome was an opinion that Jervis could be bridged with a suspension bridge at a cost of $10- to $20,000 per square metre.

How would that line up with the costs in Japan and Turkey?

Well, at its narrowest point Jervis is 1500 m across, but the bridge would have to be at an angle and not straight across, thus adding to its length.  Additionally, the shoreline and depth of Jervis would require that the pylons be built very close to the shore and the approaches would be mostly over land.  This means that if the main span was 2000 m, there would likely be approaches of at least 500 m on each approach, a total length of 3,000 m.

Compared to the Akashi Kaikyo’s 10-lane, 36-metre width, the Jervis bridge would require only 12 metres (for two lanes) but at Jervis we would add another 6 metres for rail, and 2m for a sidewalk, for a total width of 20 metres.  An over-and-under design may be appropriate at Jervis – one level for autos and the other for rail and sidewalk, but that has not yet been evaluated.  So for now our tentative cost per square metre calculation would look like this:

Estimated total length                              3000 m

Estimated width                                              20 m

Estimated area                                    60,000 sq m

 

At $10,000 per square metre          $600 million

At $20,000 per square metre    $1,200 million

 

We were interested to see how this calculation lined up with Binnie’s estimates for the Anvil Island suspension bridges.  However, the Binnie report did not disclose adequate detail to make those evaluations.

Conclusions

The new route is about half the length of the old, the costly and controversial tunnels are gone, and the total cost savings likely more than the new bridge is estimated to cost.

More importantly, the new route accesses Hotham Sound and St. Vincent Bay – a bay within a sound – where the water is deep and well-protected, an isolated site that should be ideal for an extension of the Port of Vancouver.

We are approaching the outstanding issues with vigor.