Time to get on the ball for rail bridge

Victoria is full of people who espouse the benefits of living centrally.

Despite being some of the poorest people in the region, people in the City of Victoria pay higher housing costs for the privileges of living within an easy walk, bike or drive to work and play.

People living on the West Shore, on the other hand, have sacrificed central living for the promise of cheaper, bigger houses a few kilometres away. The crawling commute is a continued gripe and many are calling for a commuter transit service, like the one proposed along the E&N rail line.

But when it comes to funding, the municipalities along the rail line — Langford, Colwood, View Royal and Esquimalt — balked when Victoria council asked them for a contribution toward the rail component on the new Johnson Street Bridge.

Despite the knowledge that a refusal risked nixing rail altogether, they collectively decided to pass it back to the Capital Regional District, further delaying the project.

The question is, should the funding contributions come from 13 CRD municipalities or only communities with a direct stake in commuter rail?

There is some indication that Victoria flubbed its communication with the West Shore and Esquimalt. Why did the mayors hold a rushed meeting just days before Victoria council’s vote on funding the rail bridge?

These delays are racking up big bills and Victoria residents will be the ones to pay the cost even though they won’t be the ones to benefit. Victorians are unlikely to ever ride the morning downtown-bound train or the late-afternoon train to Langford.

On Feb. 16, the CRD board will decide whether it wants to share a $5.5-million contribution to the $12-million project.

If the CRD doesn’t want to pony up, West Shore municipalities and Esquimalt should re-examine Victoria’s funding proposal quickly — allowing the rail bridge to disappear would be a major mistake for the region.

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