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Victoria region task force to examine light-rail funding

As work begins identifying local funding sources to pay for a portion of a proposed billion-dollar light rail transit system, residents are rallying behind the project.

The community-based group LRT 4 CRD emerged on Facebook last week. Public support for the initiative was immediate and members promptly launched www.LRT4CRD.ca on Sunday.

The website features a petition calling on the provincial and federal governments to fund two-thirds of the total build-out of a light-rail system, leaving the region's municipalities to generate about $250 million.

Residents have a right to be concerned with the price tag, but the system's eventual return should be reassuring, said Chris Foord, spokesperson for LRT 4 CRD.

"We will measure (the payback) in decades and centuries, not in years," said Foord, a transportation planner who also chairs the CRD Traffic Safety Commission, and is a former B.C. Transit marketing manager.

He said a public voice championing light rail is needed to as the project circulates among governing bodies for endorsement.

The Capital Regional District board recommended May 11 that a task force, jointly led by B.C. Transit and the CRD, be created to pinpoint local ways of paying for light rail.

“There’s a limit to how much detail we can get into until we know what (provincial and federal) help we’re going to get with it,” said CRD board chair Geoff Young. “But certainly we can start talking about the options for paying for it.”

The LRT proposal was slated to go before the Victoria Regional Transit Commission Tuesday, after press time Monday. Pending that, B.C. Transit’s provincial board of directors will be asked to endorse light rail on May 26.

If that happens, B.C. Transit’s rapid-transit business case will be finalized and then submitted June 1 to the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for approval.

In the meantime, it’s important to brainstorm local sources of money to be ready if the provincial and federal governments green light the project, said Erinn Pinkerton, B.C. Transit director of corporate and strategic planning.

“What if (provincial and federal approval) happened very quickly, and they come to us and say, ‘locals, do you have your share together?’” she said.

emccracken@vicnews.com

 

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