Friday, October 12, 2012

Regional districts asked to contribute to Vancouver Island Rail bridge rehab

The five regional district members of the Island Corridor Foundation are being asked to contribute CA $3.2 million (US $3.26 million) for the structural repairs to the 48 bridges between Victoria and Courtenay, British Columbia.

The five members of the regional districts include Mayor Graham Hill of the Capital Regional District; Mayor Phil Kent of the Cowichan Valley Regional District; Mayor Larry Jangula of the Comox Valley Regional District; Ken McRae of the Albernie Clayoquot Regional District and Councilor Ted Greves of the Nanaimo Regional District.

Last spring the ICF secured CA $15 million (US $15.29 million) in Canadian federal and provincial funding for railroad infrastructure as part of the plan to rebuild the Island railway.

According to the ICF, the improvements provide an incremental approach to restoring and expanding passenger and freight service on Vancouver Island. The incremental plan resulted from a ministry of transportation study in 2010.

Mary Ashley, co-chair of the ICF, said the regional contribution is essential to keeping rail services operational and providing for an alternate mode of transportation and added that this is a one- time request.

"Without the regional participation it is likely we will lose the federal/provincial funding, our rail operator and a functional railroad. That would be too bad when we are this close to giving rail a real chance to prove its value to the people of Vancouver Island," she said.

The re-establishment of a viable rail service has been a priority for Island communities since 2004 – when Regional Districts, municipalities and First Nations first rallied together to save the railway from closure.

Forming the Island Corridor Foundation and acquiring ownership of the railway was the first step. Partnering with a successful rail operator was the second and the third step is the incremental rebuilding of the railway to restore passenger service and expand freight service.

The improved railroad will allow for a new train service agreement to be negotiated with VIA Rail. Improvements including upgraded passenger cars and scheduling changes to provide an additional early morning southbound commuter run from Nanaimo to Victoria and an additional early evening run returning to Nanaimo from Victoria.

Co-chair Judith Sayers said this request was likely to garner lots of discussion as all requests for money do, "however, from the very beginning when Islanders came together to save the rail corridor the regional districts came to the table as partners. We are asking them as partners to contribute to something that is vital to the continuation of viable forms of transportation that will help the Island economy. What's needed now is commitment and action."

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