VI Free Daily                                The E&N Via Rail dayliner crosses Admirals Road in Esquimalt in 2010.

VI Free Daily The E&N Via Rail dayliner crosses Admirals Road in Esquimalt in 2010.

Esquimalt mayor frustrated at latest E&N railbed setback

Barb Desjardins says it makes no sense to start over looking at commuter options for corridor

Don Descoteau

VICTORIA NEWS

A very disappointed Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins is wondering how a study on how to best turn the E&N corridor from Langford to Victoria into a commuter route managed to get derailed.

B.C. NDP Minister of Transportation Clair Trevena recently indicated the previous Liberal government’s review of options for the corridor, which last saw passenger train traffic six years ago, did not provide for enough consultation with local First Nations, among other things, and was therefore being scrapped.

Desjardins was chair of the Capital Regional District board last spring when then-minister Todd Stone gathered with other area mayors in Esquimalt to announce a new study and the formation of a working group.

The announcement came on the heels of discussions that included Bayview Place developer Ken Mariash, railbed owner Island Corridor Foundation, BC Transit and First Nations, Desjardins said.

READ: Province establishes working group to study commuter rail options

While the issue of the lack of regional governance for transportation doesn’t make things any easier for the municipalities, who could otherwise put forth a unified front to deal with upper levels of government on funding and support for projects like this, the work already done should make this project easier, she said.

”The hardest thing in transportation is finding the corridor and here we have one sitting there,” she said. “Making something happen on it shouldn’t be this hard or this slow.”

An emailed Ministry of Transportation statement said MOT did not move forward with the E&N feasibility study due to the extended post-election transition period, and because “the ministry was neither able to consult with First Nations nor award the contract within the announced timeframe.”

When the new NDP government reviewed the situation, the statement continued, it was determined that the study “could not proceed at that point without proper consultation with the Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations.”

In the meantime, rookie Esquimalt-Metchosin MLA Mitzi Dean has been tasked with leading new discussions with First Nations and municipal partners about how to best transform the rail line into a functional transportation corridor.

Asked what the next steps are, Desjardins said the mayors likely need to band together to try and convince the three NDP MLAs along the route – Finance Minister Carole James and Premier John Horgan are the others – of the urgency of the situation.

“That corridor that can unlock that gridlock,” Desjardins said, adding that a solution needs to be found in a reasonable timeline before the research already done becomes obsolete.

Meanwhile, the ICF is still waiting for some indication from the government on whether it support the basic elements of a proposed new $42.7 million in track upgrades.

That plan calls for 120,000 ties to be replaced; 70,000 tonnes of ballast; bridge upgrades; siding rehabilitation; safety sight and sound barriers through several First Nation communities; crossing safety improvements and a trail walkway across the Chemainus River bridge.

In an email to The NEWS, the ministry’s communications director, Ryan Jabs, said Trevena was pleased to meet with the ICF in what was largely an introductory meeting. But he provided no indication whether the B.C. government will endorse the plan.

Jabs said the provincial government understands the importance of the E&N rail corridor to residents of Vancouver Island and will continue to meet with various parties about possibilities for the line.

E&N railbed

Just Posted

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

The objectives of the Vancouver Island Down Syndrome Society include peer support for parents and caregivers, as well as developing support services, projects, educational and employment opportunities for people with Down Syndrome. Photo supplied.
Vancouver Island Down Syndrome Society offers support for families in the community

New non-profit seeking directors in cities across Vancouver Island

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at a fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. Mowi Canada has applied to the Federal Court of Canada for a judicial review of the decision by Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan to phase out salmon farming in the Discovery Islands by June, 2022. (Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward photo)
Major B.C. salmon farms seek court intervention in Discovery Islands ban

Fisheries minister is phasing out operations in the area by June 2022

Stand up paddleboarder Christie Jamieson is humbled to her knees as a pod of transient orcas put on a dramatic show on Jan. 19 in the Ucluelet Harbour. (Nora O’Malley photo)
UPDATED WITH VIDEO: Ucluelet paddle boarder surrounded by pod of orcas

“My whole body is still shaking. I don’t even know what to do with this energy.”

Cumberland photographer Sara Kemper recently took the top spot in a Canadian Geographic photography contest. Photo by Sara Kemper
Vancouver Island photographer takes top Canadian Geographic photo prize

Sara Kemper shows what home means to her in Comox Valley photo

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

Seven streets in downtown Duncan, including Station Street, will soon have new native names added to their signage. (Submitted graphic)
New Duncan street signs will be in English and Hul’q’umi’num

Seven streets to get additional names in First Nations language

Metchosin Coun. Kyara Kahakauwila is stepping down as deputy mayor following controversy over her decision to travel to Mexico in December. (Black Press Media file photo)
Councillor steps down as deputy mayor of Metchosin after controversial trip to Mexico

Mayor hopeful mediation will help council get back to the business of community

Possible COVID-19 exposures may have occurred at Alexander Elementary School on Jan. 13, 14 and 15. (Google Maps)
Alexander Elementary in Duncan announces possible COVID-19 exposures

Exposures may have occurred on Jan. 13, 14 and 15

Victoria police arrested a man after at least 14 downtown locations were damaged Jan. 20. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Victoria glass smashing suspect believed to be water taxi thief

Man arrested for damaging at least 14 downtown locations

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
One in five tests in Fernie area coming back positive: doctor

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

Throughout December, RCMP conducted CounterAttack road checks as police worked to keep roads free of impaired drivers. (BLACK PRESS file photo)
From the “You can’t make this stuff up” file – stories from the BC CounterAttack campaign

Amusing, yes, but a reminder impaired driving affects ability to drive and to make good decisions

Victoria police are warning people of a continued rise in cybercrime. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane)
Victoria police warn of rising cybercrime called spear phishing

Fraudsters continue to trick people out of large sums of money

Most Read