Victoria city council eyes bridge rail plan today

Victoria city council is scheduled to make a final decision this morning (Feb. 4) on whether to include rail on the new Johnson Street Bridge.

City staff has recommended axing the rail component, with an estimated cost saving of $12 million, but preserving the corridor if funding becomes available at a later date. Choosing to add rail later will likely come at a significantly higher price.

The city has made several unsuccessful attempts to get help funding train tracks across the bridge. Written requests to communities that could benefit from a commuter line to the downtown have gone unanswered.

A grant application to to the Union of B.C. Municipalities for $6.5 million, to be drawn from federal Gas Tax Agreement funding, won’t be decided until late spring or early summer. Waiting for the announcement would cause significant and costly delays to the project, according to project director Mike Lai.

Meanwhile, the Island Corridor Foundation is planning a new Nanaimo-to-Victoria passenger service along the E&N rail line.

Announced in October, the $15-million plan aims to bring commuters to downtown early in the morning, and return them in late afternoon. No funding has yet been secured for the needed rail improvements.

Victoria city council will also consider approving the Johnson Street Bridge Project Charter, which outlines the scope and timelines of the work ahead.

The charter calls for preliminary design work to be complete by early fall.