Mayor outlines city’s Airport Master Plan

Plans for a comprehensive revamp of the entire Digby Island airport site were revealed earlier this month.

It might soon be possible to step off an inbound airplane from Calgary at Prince Rupert Airport and, minutes later, hop on a seaplane to reach Haida Gwaii.

That’s just one of many scenarios that the City of Prince Rupert’s ambitious Airport Master Plan would enable through creating one linked transportation hub.

Plans for a comprehensive revamp of the entire Digby Island airport site were revealed earlier this month when Prince Rupert Mayor Lee Brain offered details on the new plan, which is being developed in part with the provincial and federal governments and WSP Canada, the contractor awarded with developing the mapping and logistics of the plan.

While a funding model has not been developed and is largely predicated on the final investment decisions of a number of industrial projects planned for the Prince Rupert area, chiefly in the LNG industry, the plan would address a plethora of issues at the current airport.

The 20-year forecast includes looking at things such as runway length, taxiways, apron, air terminal buildings for restaurants and businesses, hangars, seaplane water landing strips, helicopter landing pads, vehicle parking, air navigation facilities, utilities and services, airport maintenance hangars, fire support, a cargo business centre, noise management, environmental planning, airport security and airport access.

“In the immediate [term] we need to have the plan done basically by late fall, so in the fourth quarter. It’s an aggressive timeline. Usually you get more time to do master plans, but this is all depending on if LNG goes through, then we would have to get that sorted out a lot sooner than later,” said Mayor Brain last week, adding that actual construction of the site wouldn’t begin until later in 2016 should a funding model be approved.

Streamlining a more frequent ferry schedule for more frequent flights is one of the items on the plan and it’s part of a longer-term access point proposal.

“One of the things the province is working on now … is building road connectivity to Digby Island, but also around up towards Lax Kw’alaams and across to Metlakatla with a bridge to the airport. That’s something that’s a … longer term vision, [but] in the immediate, the master plan is basically going to address how frequently the ferries are going to have to come. If we get more flights per day … we’re going to need a ferry that can come to and from Rupert on a very regular schedule. So, rather than people waiting for a bus, they can drive on a ferry themselves or walk on – kind of how the Ketchikan system works … I envision something like every 30 minutes or every hour, a ferry is coming back and forth, but that’s something for the master plan to figure out,” said Brain.

“We want to be able to enable business at the airport too. So, right now it’s really hard for a business to operate at the airport because there’s only two ferries per day and there’s only two amounts of traffic per day, whereas if there was a regular flight schedule and a regular ferry system going on, then business would be more viable.”