ICF asks taxpayers for $3.2M to fix train bridges, trestles

Nanaimo taxpayers, and folks in four other Island regions, are being asked to toss $3.2 million toward passenger-rail service.

Nanaimo taxpayers, and folks in four other Island regions, are being asked to toss $3.2 million toward fixing 48 bridges and getting passenger-rail service back on track.

That one-time purse, to repair bridges spanning Courtenay and Victoria, would join $15 million in provincial and federal tax dollars granted in the spring to the Island Corridor Foundation for infrastructure repairs, such as tracks.

Mary Ashley, ICF co-chairwoman, said the $3.2 million means 43 cents per $100,000 of property assessment.

“As an example, the cost for a $400,000 property would be $1.72 per year for five years,” she said in a press release.

The improved railroad would engineer talks for a new train-service agreement with VIA Rail.

Upgrades include passenger cars and scheduling changes for an additional early-morning, southbound commuter run from Nanaimo to Victoria, plus an additional early-evening run returning to Nanaimo from Victoria.

“Without the regional participation, it is likely we will lose the federal/provincial funding, our rail operator and a functional railroad,” said Ashley. “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.”

Joe Stanhope, Regional District of Nanaimo chairman, said while the decision is up to the board members in all five districts, he feels the request is certainly worth considering.

“When the five  regional districts and five First Nations got involved seven years ago it was considered to be worthwhile and I don’t think that has diminished,” he said. “Anytime we can take some of the industrial and communter traffic off the roads it’s going to be better for everybody. “

Resumption of a viable rail service has been a priority for Island communities since 2004 when regional districts, municipalities and First Nations first rallied to save the railway from closure.

Passenger-rail service has been sidelined due to track and infrastructure-safety concerns.

Freight service, however, has been allowed to continue at slower speeds along the E&N corridor.

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