The Comox Valley Regional district has approved in principle funding support for the Island Corridor Foundation’s rail and trestle project — subject to approval from four other Vancouver Island regional districts.
The ICF has asked the districts to contribute $3.2 million to help repair 48 bridges along the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railroad between Victoria and Courtenay.
The foundation holds the land and rails on behalf of the five regional districts and 13 First Nations.
Last spring, the Province and federal government committed a combined $15 million for railroad infrastructure in an effort to rebuild the Island railway. Improvements provide an incremental approach to restoring and expanding passenger and freight service.
The $3.2 million would represent 43 cents per $100,000 of assessment per taxpayer. The cost for a $400,000 property would be $1.72 per year for five years.
“Like all things, you have to ask yourself, Where’s the net benefit for your community?” CVRD board chair Edwin Grieve said. “I’m thinking if you have any kind of a long-range vision at all, you’ll realize that this infrastructure is immeasurable … Everybody knows that rail is not just the past, it’s also the future.”
In terms of benefits to the Valley, Grieve would like to see the reinstatement of the ski train, which arrived from Victoria on Fridays and departed Sundays.
Constructed in the early 1900s, the original E&N line was extended to Courtenay in 1914.
To acquire land for the corridor and to build the infrastructure would be virtually impossible in today’s world and would cost billions of dollars, Grieve said.