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B.C. Transit recommends light rail for Capital Region

Electric light-rail rapid transit is B.C. Transit's recommended choice for the future of moving people between Victoria and the West Shore.

Construction of a fully built light-rail system would cost about $950 million, including the right-of-way, track and electrical systems, stations and vehicles.

Total cost for the life of the system, including capital and operating expenses, is estimated at $1.2 billion.

Depending on if and how the price tag can be shared between the municipalities, the province and the federal government, Greater Victoria residential property owners could be required to pay an additional $130 to $265 for the new system each year. They currently pay $92.50 for transit, though that will increase to $120.50 starting May 15.

Business owners would face a sharper increase of between $1,300 and $2,650, depending on the funding formula. They currently pay $356 annually for transit, though that is also going to jump by $28.

Transit is currently covered by fares, the province, property taxes, fuel taxes and advertising. However, the transit company is not ruling out exploring other methods to offset project costs.

Transit officials say the two other regional transit options that were considered - bus rapid transit and maintaining the status quo - would also be expensive. Bus rapid transit start-up costs are estimated at $520 million, and $250 million would be needed to maintain the current transit system.

A new bus rapid transit system would be cheaper in the short term, say transit officials, but anticipate it would be at capacity after 10 to 15 years and require replacement with light rail.

B.C. Transit's recommendation, kept under tight wraps until Tuesday afternoon, is an important next step in bringing rapid transit to the traffic-burdened region. Last October key municipalities along the rapid-transit corridor endorsed the right-of-way route, including Victoria, Saanich, View Royal, Colwood and Langford.

There would be stations in downtown Victoria and at Uptown in Saanich. The electric train would run along a track next to the Trans-Canada Highway to the 6 Mile/Colwood interchange, along Island Highway in View Royal to Colwood, continue along Goldstream Avenue before reaching its final Station Avenue stop in Langford.

There is still a check list of things to do before B.C. Transit's rapid transit business case is completed.

To solicit community feedback, the plan will be presented in detail during two public open houses May 4 and 5.

The light-rail transit plan is expected to go before the B.C. Transit board of directors and the Victoria Regional Transit Commission in May. If approved, the business case would be submitted in June for the province's consideration.

- more to come

 emccracken@vicnews.com

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