EDITORIAL: Saanich has role in E&N rail decision

Saanichites should take note of the drama playing out among its neighbours.

The City of Victoria is trying to decide whether to foot the bill so that the new, and very pricey, Johnston Street bridge will be able to accommodate rail.

Despite being some of the poorest people in the region, Victorians pay higher housing costs for the privileges of living within an easy walk, bike or drive to downtown.

People living in the West Shore, on the other hand, have sacrificed central living for the promise of cheaper, bigger houses. They gripe about their 40-minute commute and they talk about the need for a commuter transit, such as the one proposed along the E&N Rail line.

Talk is cheap – and the mayors of Langford, Colwood, View Royal and Esquimalt proved it last week. When Victoria council asked for a modest contribution toward the rail component on the new Johnson Street Bridge, they balked. Despite their knowledge that a refusal risked nixing rail altogether, they collectively decided to pass the buck, further delaying the project.

Residents of Victoria proper won’t be the ones riding the morning downtown-bound train or the late-afternoon train to Langford.

Victoria council has decided to postpone any big decisions until after Feb. 16, when the Capital Regional District board decides whether it wants to share a $5.5-million contribution to the $12-million project.

Apparently, Victoria council is so committed to rail as the sustainable transit option of the future that some are willing to pay for the majority of the project with or without regional support.

They shouldn’t have to and Saanich should use its weight as the largest municipality in the region to set a funding precedent that makes sense for Greater Victoria. Yes, the E&N rail line bypasses this municipality, but residents in Saanich have much to gain from endorsing rail. As a community of commuters, Saanichites realize the advantages of getting cars off overcrowded roads. We’re also in line for light rail down the Douglas corridor, which is another project with funding implications that transcend the parochial attitudes of some of our neighbouring municipalities.