The following provides an exciting research opportunity for interested MUN faculty and/or students to provide support for a potential fixed link to Bell Island.
Bell Island is an island, approximately 9km by 3km, located in the middle of Conception Bay. From St. John's, it is a 20-minute drive to the ferry terminal in Portugal Cove and then a 20-minute ferry ride. A onetime population of over 12,000 people has dwindled to just less than 3000 since the closing of its mining operation in 1966. The island is serviced by a two-vessel ferry system which, at its peak, transports approximately 550 workers to the St. John's labour market daily. Further information on Bell Island can be found at: [url]http://www.bellisland.net/[/url]
Over the years, there have been many attempts at economic development but they have had minimal success and have not reversed the tide of population decline. It has become quite evident that an inefficient and unreliable ferry system has not only hampered economic development but has also discouraged and demoralized daily working commuters. A prosperous future for Bell Island is inevitably tied to an adequate and reliable transportation link to the Avalon Peninsula. Where the ferry system has failed in the past, a fixed link would all but guarantee economic growth and development for Bell Island.
Early in 2010, Town of Wabana went through a consultative Integrated Community Sustainability Plan (ICSP) process with the help of the regional economic development board (NEAREDB). A group of citizens participated in a strategic planning/opportunity identification process and a number of projects/opportunities were identified and prioritized and a fixed link was identified as the top priority.
The Town convened a group of citizens to pursue the realization of the fixed link idea. The group met twice in the month of September with MP Jack Harris in attendance. At the first meeting, it was suggested that perhaps the Harris Centre at MUN could be approached to help link resources at the university that could support the community in this early stages of the initiative. It was felt that Harris Centre could link the community group with resources at MUN to help determine the potential economic benefits to the community and the region from such a development. The other potential area of support would be in the area of the engineering component of the initiative.
On September 20, 2010, a meeting was held with Rob Greenwood and Bojan Furst of the Harris Centre. At this meeting it was agreed that the group would initiate the process to access the resources of the university by submitting this opportunity description for research.
There are several aspects of this project that could be worthy of research. At this early stage, the Bell Island Fixed Link Group is specifically looking to have an initial economic impact assessment done on a potential fixed link. The economic impact should be considered, not just in the context of Bell Island, but of the possible mainland destination of such a link as well as of the entire region. It is hoped that the assessment would include a creative array of possible ancillary developments that could derive from a fixed link.
The group would be open and appreciative if readers identify and express an interest in other aspects of this project. Thank you.