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Our View: Neighbours must pay up or lose out

Victoria is full of people who espouse the benefits of living centrally.

Despite being some of the poorest people in the region, Victorians all pay higher housing costs for the privileges of living within an easy walk, bike or drive to work and play.

People living in the West Shore, on the other hand, have sacrificed central living for the promise of cheaper, bigger houses a few kilometres away. They gripe about their 40-minute commute and they talk about the need for a commuter transit, such as the one proposed along the E&N Rail line.

Talk is cheap – and the mayors of Langford, Colwood, View Royal and Esquimalt proved it last week.

When Victoria council asked them for a modest contribution toward the rail component on the new Johnson Street Bridge, they balked. Despite their knowledge that a refusal risked nixing rail altogether, they collectively decided to pass the buck, further delaying the project.

These delays are racking up big bills and Victorians will be the ones to pay the cost even though they won’t be the ones to benefit. Victorians will never ride the morning downtown-bound train or the late-afternoon train to Langford.

On Feb. 16, the Capital Regional District board will decide whether it wants to share a $5.5-million contribution to the $12-million project. Victoria council has decided to postpone any big decisions until after this time.

Everyone on council is deeply committed to rail as the sustainable transit option of the future. So much so, that some councillors are willing to pay for the majority of the project with or without regional support.

This would be a big mistake. If those who would actually ride the train won’t put their money where their mouth is, council has no business downloading the cost on those who won’t ride.

Victoria residents are already burdened by a $50-million debt to build a new bridge. If neighbouring municipalities don’t fully commit to paying up next week, then the city must put aside its convictions and scrap rail.

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