Rail proponents a few bricks short of a load
About two years ago I wrote a letter to the Citizen about the revival of the train service along the rail corridor. I did some basic number crunching with the help of people that were experts in the costs involved to complete this project. It was their opinion that the costs could be as high as $500 million to complete the rail line from Victoria to Courtenay. The only part of this project that is salvageable is the bare road bed. The tracks, bridges and crossing signals are all obsolete and are not reusable, as they would not pass present DOT requirements.
The ICF to this date, to my knowledge, has not provided a workable schedule, a business plan or a quote from a reliable contractor to compete this project. How can the ICF expect to obtain any funding from any level of government body without these vital requirements is beyond me. So, after years of feathering their own nest but doing nothing constructive, the board of directors of the ICF should be punted into the next time zone.
The federal government has just released the cost to bypass Lac Megantic, a 13 kilometre rail line, at a cost of $167 million — that’s $12,870 million per kilometre. It’s about 100 kilometeres from Victoria to Nanaimo, so do the math. Probably not a totally fair comparison because the former includes land purchases which would not apply here because of the existing right-of-way, but a number nevertheless. Where did this pie in the sky $45 million to compete this project come from? You could hardly buy and install the sleepers [railway jargon for ties] for that amount of money.
So, let’s keep the right-of-way for future use, but in the meantime pull up the existing obsolete infrastructure. I’m like thousands of Valley residents, tired of driving over these railway crossings. This project is going nowhere, so turn the right-of-way into better uses, like more downtown parking, green space, maybe a swap meet location or a spot for the market that squats on Ingram Street. Opportunity to improve the intersection at Canada Avenue/Government Street/Trunk Road/Cowichan Way/Duncan Street intersection (A place for a big imaginative round-a-bout?)
The existing bus/tour bus service is excellent and very flexible. It can stop at places that the train cannot, like the popular Forest Museum. The rail line would require huge amounts of taxpayer funding for eternity just to stay alive.
One solution to the Malahat problem is to use the rail bed from Goldstream to Mill Bay as an alternative route. It’s 100 feet wide, enough for four lanes.
In my opinion, people who think this is a workable project don’t have all the true facts. How could they? The ICF has not provided any and the rest are dreamers with a few bricks short of a full load.