The NDP’s announcement of a new transportation study for southern Vancouver Island is being viewed skeptically by some Cowichan Valley residents.
Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claire Trevena said the study is intended to determine long-term solutions for getting people moving more efficiently throughout south Vancouver Island.
She said the South Island Transportation Plan will look to identify improvement options for transit, cycling, pedestrian movements, ferry services, rail and existing roads and the connections between them.
The study area will go as far north as the Duncan area and as far west as the Sooke area.
“I know people are frustrated with congestion and we want to find solutions that will get people moving,” said Trevena.
“I’m anticipating that this will lead to a comprehensive regional plan for all types of transportation.”
Urban Systems was selected to carry out the study through an open bidding process, and the consulting company will have one year to complete its work.
The Cowichan Valley’s Jack Peake, former chairman of the Island Corridor Foundation, which owns the rail line, and head of the E&N Railway Rountable, which has been advocating for the revitalization of the Island’s railway corridor, said he has mixed feelings about the study.
He acknowledges that the Island needs a transportation authority to work cooperatively with agencies, organizations, and governments to organize transport in an efficient and effective manner.
“But there’s no need to delay any decision regarding the Island’s rail service,” Peake said.
“Rails service is a key component of the Island’s transportation network and an obvious part of the solution, and the studies have already been done. I’d like to see more coordination in plans for transportation, but another study is a waste of time and money. The NDP seem to want to turn transportation into a political football to use in the next provincial election.”
Sonia Furstenau, MLA for the Cowichan Valley, also said there is a “growing frustration” of the limited transportation options that currently exist between Victoria and Nanaimo.
‘There’s almost no public transportation options, and nothing connecting in any efficient and effective way,” she said.
“Our transportation infrastructure is not keeping up with the rate of the population growth in this area, so I think a thorough study is needed to come up with a plan.”
Furstenau said she would like to see the E&N Railway’s transportation corridor transformed into a high-speed commuter rail system, or used to house a bus network.
“There’s a growing need to be able to get from Cowichan to Victoria without having to use a vehicle,” she said.
“I’d also like to see passenger ferries operating between Cowichan and Saanich. We also need more cycling and walking infrastructure as part of the plan for a healthier, happier community without vehicles.”
Furstenau said the lack of effective transportation infrastructure on the south Island can’t be ignored much longer.
“I hope the findings of this study will be implemented so we can finally be brought into the 21st Century,” she said.