It’s about investing in the future.
We have long been proponents of getting the Island Rail Corridor back up and running for both passenger and freight service. Having such a corridor sitting there, ready for us to use, is a boon that other jurisdictions can only dream of. Over the years, we have allowed this incredibly valuable asset decay, to the point where now, a significant investment is needed if we are not to squander its potential.
As the years drag on, prospects for the project become dimmer, as the infrastructure further deteriorates. It is to our shame this has been allowed to happen. But a recent report from the province has once again brought Island Rail to top of mind, and the numbers, while admittedly large, are not exorbitant in terms of large-scale infrastructure projects.
The province estimates approximately $500 million, while the Island Corridor Foundation (which owns the line) questions some of those figures (a 50 per cent contingency, in particular) and estimates about $250 million will be needed. Big dollars, both. But not so much that the project needs to be dismissed out of hand.
Consider, as the ICF CEO Larry Stevenson says, that the McKenzie interchange project in Victoria, which addressed just one intersection, has come in at $96 million. If we can see our way clear to spending almost $100 million on just one intersection, surely a rail line connecting Victoria to Courtenay, and Nanaimo to Port Alberni is well worth at least twice the price tag.
We believe the rail line is a great investment in the green transportation of the future, and Stevenson is further correct that it could prove to be a great investment for the province and the federal government in stimulus post COVID-19. We can fix the rail with B.C. engineers, B.C. wood, B.C. gravel and B.C. labour.
We have long wanted a viable alternative travel route to the Malahat connecting the Victoria area to the rest of the Island, and this is it. The corridor is already there.
We want to get people out of their individual cars, and fix congestion. This works to do that, too.
Properly managed it could also be a big tourist asset. Many people would love to sit back and enjoy the scenery as they tour the length of Vancouver Island, stopping and spending money in our communities along the way.
Now is not the time to give up on rail. Now’s the time to get excited about it again.