CRD insists on doing homework before shelling out for rail

Region supports more research into cost-sharing formula for rail on bridge

It wasn’t the resounding “yes” Victoria hoped to hear. However, the “maybe” offered by the Capital Regional District directors may be enough to keep the door from closing on a railway crossing on a new Johnson Street Bridge.

“We would have liked more commitment (but) it’s a win,” Victoria Coun. John Luton said.

At the regional meeting Wednesday, Mayor Dean Fortin asked his fellow directors to share in the city’s $5.5-million cost to include rail on the new bridge.

“We can’t delay the project,” he said, emphasizing the need for an urgent decision.

“We’re not talking huge dollars relative to transportation initiatives for each of the parties,” added Graham Bruce of the Island Corridor Foundation. “If … rail has a future, at some point one of you, all of you, will have to come to the table.”

Fortin asked the region to share the $700,000 cost to keep the rail option open for another few months.

“You can’t ask Victoria to be the only one to carry the risk,” Fortin argued.

This money would be spent to prepare bridge design plans that include rail, just in case the city secures funding for the project down the road. In early summer, the city will learn whether it will receive a $6.5-million grant from federal gas tax funds.

Around the CRD table, mayors and councillors from the region’s other 12 municipalities responded with some skepticism at the need for speed.

“As I watch the whole process, I have to smile at our mayor from the city – it’s almost like it’s become our problem that it’s a tight situation,” Saanich Coun. Leif Wergeland said. “We want to see a business case.”

Other directors agreed they haven’t had the chance to discuss the funding requests with their councils.

“I’m worried that if we make too many commitments now, it will delay the development of other critical areas in the transportation system,” Sidney Mayor Larry Cross said.

Despite these apprehensions, most on the board reaffirmed their commitment to rail as a regional priority.

“We need to find a way to move this forward,” Saanich Coun. Vic Derman said.

The board passed motions to ask CRD staff to prepare reports on both of the city’s funding requests.

Next week, Victoria council will decide whether the region’s tepid commitment is enough for the city to proceed with parallel design plans.

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