Changes are coming to B.C. Ferries downtown Nanaimo terminal, which will undergo redevelopment starting in 2021. Among changes will be the replacement of the MV Quinsam that will be replaced with two of B.C. Ferries’ new Island-class craft. News Bulletin file photo

B.C. Ferries reveals plans for downtown Nanaimo’s Gabriola terminal improvements

Terminal development plan proposes more vehicle space, better terminal access, and twin ferries

Nanaimo residents can get a glimpse at how an upgraded B.C. Ferries terminal in Nanaimo Harbour might impact the downtown waterfront.

B.C. Ferries’ Nanaimo Harbour Terminal Development Plan was approved and published online in March.

The 66-page proposal provides the ferry corporation’s vision of how the terminal will be restructured to accommodate expected future growth in traffic between downtown Nanaimo and Gabriola Island.

Among considerations noted in the plan are how vehicles will access the terminal to prevent lineups of cars on Front Street, adequate holding space on the site for vehicles waiting to board ferries and even how best to accommodate pedestrians on the proposed Harbourfront Walkway extension, which currently ends on Front Street next to the ferry terminal, but will be extended along Port Drive property toward the Nanaimo cruise ship terminal.

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According to the document, the plan calls for leasing a section of Port of Nanaimo land adjacent to the south side of the terminal to add more holding space for up to 80 vehicles and provide an access lane to the terminal along Front Street to prevent vehicles from having to line up along the street, while waiting for drivers to purchase boarding tickets. Re-designing the ticket kiosk for faster boarding pass sales processing is part of a list of proposed solutions to make getting foot and vehicle traffic into and out of the terminal faster and safer.

The plan also proposes removing the existing curved single-lane loading trestle, which is nearing the end of its life span, and replacing it with a two-lane straight loading ramp. The existing berth would be replaced with a new one plus a tie-up berth beside it.

Improving the waiting room and passenger amenities were also listed among the top three concerns raised during public consultation meetings held in Nanaimo and Gabriola last year.

RELATED: B.C. Ferries to reveal Nanaimo-Gabriola terminal plans

The terminal development plan for downtown Nanaimo is part of a overall strategy by the ferry corporation to look at all of its terminals and find ways to optimize operational and cost efficiency.

Another change to Nanaimo Harbour’s seascape will come in the form of the vessel that sails across the harbour. The MV Quinsam, which makes nearly 5,000 trips annually between downtown Nanaimo and Descanso Bay, is scheduled for retirement in 2029, to replaced by two of the new breed of Island Class ferries, possibly as early as 2021, according to B.C. Ferries.

Tessa Humphries, B.C. Ferries communications manager, said in an e-mail current plans call for terminal redevelopment construction to start in early 2021.

As for accommodating pedestrians on the extended Harbourfront Walkway, which will have to go around, through or under the terminal loading ramp, no firm decisions have been made on how that will be achieved, but there are three primary options under consideration, Humphries said.

“There are three options presented, and they have been identified as the preferred options, but they all require a series of approvals before moving forward,” she said. “It’s just a bit premature to comment at this time.”

A terminal development plan for Gabriola Island’s Descanso Bay was also approved last month.



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