Trains no longer run on the old E&N rail line but the right of way beside the tracks have found a new purpose.
It’s called the E&N Rail Trail-Humpback Connector and as the name implies, it’s being constructed largely within the abandoned E&N rail corridor. The project, which began in 2009, is being built in phases and, when completed, will stretch 17 kilometres to provide a non-motorized transportation link between Victoria and the West Shore.
“This part of the trail isn’t even officially open yet, but we’ve already had people walking and riding their bikes along the path. It’s actually pretty great to see the level of interest,” said Dan Marten, senior project engineer with the Capital Regional District responsible for the project.
The completion of the Esquimault portion of the trail finishes phase one of the project and opens up a nine-kilometre portion of the trail, stretching from Esquimault Road to Burnside. This phase of the project cost approximately $1.1 million.
The entire trail, when completed, will come with a price tag of more than $36 million, with funds coming from the Federal Gas Tax Fund, Recreational Infrastructure Canada Program, B.C. Local Motion Fund, the Provincial Cycling Infrastructure Program, and the CRD's capital funds.
“Our next priority is the completion of the portion that leads all the way up to the West Shore,” said Marten. “We’ll be applying for funding through the Gas Tax Fund so it’s important for us to have our application for those funds nailed down and in place.”
Beyond the run up to the West Shore, a few missing links still exist within the current path system.
A connector route is planned from the Johnson Street Bridge to the rail crossing at Esquimalt Road. At present, from the west side of the bridge an existing bike path leads to Kitma Road and up to the start of the new trail section.
Where the E&N Trail crosses Admirals Road, there is a section of the pathway that cuts through Songhees First Nation’s land. That section, along Maplebank Road to Hallowell Road, has not been undertaken as negotiations continue.
The phased approach to the trail’s construction is largely a function of the significant cost of the project. Phase one was broken into seven project areas, with a portion of the trail in each of the partnering municipalities. Phases two and three will link the trails together and future phases will extend the trail on either end.