The View Royal end of a separated section of the E&N Rail Trail was the site for a multitude of transportation funding announcements on Wednesday.
While Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone listed millions in funding boosts for transit and cycling infrastructure projects around the Capital Region, the item of most importance to locals was the $1 million in Bike BC cash set aside to complete the last section of the E&N Trail between this spot and Maplebank Road, further up off Admirals Road on Esquimalt First Nations land.
“It took a long time to get here. There was a lot of opposition at the beginning for the rail trail,” Esquimalt Chief Andy Thomas said of his community. “But when we started looking at the options, it became a little bit more workable, more acceptable.” The original plan was to run it alongside the rail line, through the Esquimalt Nation land, past the longhouse and “right through the middle of our living room, basically.”
View Royal Mayor David Screech sounded thrilled with the latest development on a trail that has been pieced together over the years but stalled on this section.
“Admirals is such a dangerous road for cyclists, and there’s hundreds of cyclists on there daily now with the DND workers and such, so to get them off and onto a separated trail is wonderful,” he said. Final details of the trail alignment for the roughly 1.5 kilometre stretch still have to be worked out, Screech noted.
The plan will see bike traffic routed down Hallowell Road – vehicle parking will be eliminated on one side to make room for the bike path – then up Admirals to a point where it cuts through Esquimalt Nation and joins the other side of the trail at Maplebank Road.
Screech said some of the vehicles that have been parking along Hallowell belong to people who work nearby, while others are visitors to the townhouse complexes. To make up for some of the loss of street parking, a section of land beside the tracks on the View Royal side of Hallowell – that right-of-way is controlled by the Island Corridor Foundation – would be cleared.
Thomas said the negotiations to use their land for part of the trail has been a process of relationship building between the Esquimalt Nation and the various levels of government. “If you want change then everybody’s got to give a little,” he said.
Stone also announced $203,050 for separated bike lanes on Dunford Road in Langford, as part of about $2.7 million in cycling infrastructure upgrades around the Capital Region and up Island.
“I think it’s wonderful to see the money being spent throughout the region on cycling and the encouragement of cycling,” said Screech.
The press conference doubled as a vehicle to announce provincial funding for upgrades to bus infrastructure. Not only did Stone announce an $10-million injection of cash to extend the outbound bus lanes along Douglas from Tolmie Avenue at the Saanich/Victoria border to the new McKenzie Interchange, $11 million will be provided to do seismic and maintenance garage upgrades in Langford and Victoria.
Saanich Coun. Susan Brice, who chairs the Victoria Regional Transit Commission board, called Stone “a champion for transit in government.”