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$250-million redevelopment needed to keep US ferry service in downtown Victoria?

New Belleville Terminal critical as Victoria could lose U.S. border service, warns ferry president
Residents can provide feedback on the proposal for a new Belleville Terminal online from Sept. 20 to Oct. 20. (Black Press Media file photo)

A major redevelopment of Belleville Terminal in Victoria’s Inner Harbour may soon be on the horizon.

The province launched an online survey on Tuesday (Sept. 20) to gather public input on potential upgrades for the terminal, which has provided marine transportation services between Vancouver Island and Washington state since 1924.

According to the province, the facilities along Belleville Street do not meet the required safety and preclearance border control measures under the Canada-U.S. agreement on land, rail, marine and air transport preclearance.

The Belleville Terminal currently lacks sufficient space for inspection rooms, which means U.S. customs officials can’t clear southbound travellers before setting sail.

“It really isn’t an efficient way to manage people,” Black Ball Ferry Line president Ryan Burles told Black Press Media.

He said a new ferry terminal is critical because U.S. Customs and Border Protection may leave the Island altogether for Canada’s violation of its treaty obligations. But he said Black Ball, which operates the Coho vehicle ferry to Port Angeles, will try and adapt if the project doesn’t proceed forward.

“We would just move everything and do post-clearance over on the Washington side,” he said. “But it’s certainly not our first choice.”

Estimated to cost somewhere between $220 million and $290 million, construction of a new preclearance customs building will serve both Clipper and Coho ferry passengers in one location, streamlining service.

The project is also anticipated to generate $257 million per year in visitor expenditures and support up to 3,200 regional jobs over 20 years.

“Doing nothing on this property is not an option. It is absolutely vital for any sort of tourism, hospitality or travel-related business – not just downtown, but really in the entire region – because of the number of people that come through that facility every year,” said Jeff Bray, executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association.

“The potential to really make that Belleville terminus a really great, modern, environmentally sensitive and culturally important centre could be great for the Inner Harbour.”

The project team aims to have the business plan approved by next spring, with work commencing next fall on the first phase, which includes creating a temporary terminal in the Steamship Building to accommodate Clipper and U.S. customs.

Phase two of the project will see the demolition of existing infrastructure and construction of a new preclearance terminal, in addition to a new commercial goods processing facility. The new terminal would be completed by fall 2027 and operational later that year.

The public input survey will remain available until Oct. 20 and an open house will be held on Sept. 27 from 2 to 8 p.m. to provide additional information about the project.

Learn more about the Belleville Terminal redevelopment project at

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