Br iefing Note: E& N Rail Trail October 2006 Prepared by: John Luton, Executive Director, Capital Bike and Walk Society Introduction Victoria’s Capital Region will build a multi-use trail alongside the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway from dow ntow n Victoria, through Esquimalt to View Royal more recently, the project concept has been expanded to reach a further several kilometers through Langford to Goldstream Park. An engineering repor t commissioned by the three original municipalities where the trail is proposed confirmed that a trail would be feasible and cost $4 million in 2001 dollars to construct the 8 km from downtown to the T hetis Lake interchange on the Trans Canada Highway. All three municipalities endorsed the concept and incorporated the proposal i nto their cycling network plans. The Capital Regional District, Greater Victoria’s regional government, also incorporated the pr oject into a regional cycling transportation strategy. The Trail project: Proposed for 16 km from downtown Victoria to Goldstream Park in Langford alongside the E&N Railway, an active rail line linking Victoria with communities on southern Vancouver Island. Links downtown with Esquimalt, View Royal, Langford and regional destinations Creates a loop by connecting to the Galloping Goose regional trail, used by as many as 5,000 cyclists and pedestrians a day Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt: As much as 10% of the base workforce cycle to/from work regularly and more than 60% live in the western communities. The E&N corridor is a convenient route between the west shore and the base. The trail will also connect important recreational and cultural destinations: Naden Museum Esquimalt First Nations Thetis Lake Park Goldstream Provincial Park Safety More than 60 trails within active rail corridors are in operation in North America. U.S. studies show that these trails are safe places to walk and ride, even in corridors with significant volumes of rail traffic and high speed trains. Establishing formal trails within rail corridors actually reduces trespassing or crossing tracks in a dangerous manner. Trails define safe places to walk or cycle and provide for controlled crossings at appropriate locations. A rail with trail already operates in this corridor, providing for cyclists and walke rs in the city of Nanaimo, 100 km north of Victoria. Why the Trail is Important Public Health and Active Transportation Active modes of transpor tation are the most oppor tune means of incorporating physical activity into the lives of our citizens. It requires only the conversion of some daily trips to alternative means of transportation, not the introduction of new activities into the busy lives of Canadians. Cycling or walking to work w ould meet the daily activity recommendations of Health Canada, based on average commute times and distances for most Canadians. Victoria leads the country in health indicators and has the lowest obesity rates in Canada, which reflects our high levels of participation in cycling and walking for transportation. Trails and the Env ironment Cycling and multi-use trails conver t many vehicle trips to cycling and walking, reducing the negative environmental impacts of motor vehicle traffic (air quality, congestion delays and reduced productivity, groundwater degradation and land consumption). In Greater Victoria, cycling accounts for 6% of commute trips and walking for over 10% (the highest mode shares in Canada). Research across North America indicates that access to facilities increases the choice to cycle or walk. Rail Tra ils and Tour ism Cycling tourism generates jobs and economic activity. T he Kettle Valley Rail Trail in BC’s interior counts 50,000 cycling tourists annually and generates as much as $5 million in returns to Okanagan communities. Elsewhere, cycling tourism is a multi-million dollar industr y, often connected to trail facilities. The Capital Region’s Galloping Goose and Lochside Trail already enjoy 800,000 visits a year. Update With the recent extension of the concept to Goldstream Park, a new estimate of $10 million is projected for completion of the trail. The CRD has assigned planning to the Par ks department, already managers of the Galloping Goose and Lochside regional trails. Parks is fast tracking planning for the Rail Trail. Their first project is to negotiate agreements for access to the property for the purposes of constructing and operating a trail with the Island Corridor Foundation, owners of the rail corridor. A par ks planner is also working on designing the projects to establish the trail. Funding of the rail trail is one of the planning tasks the CRD will be overseeing. Local municipalities and the regional government have yet to dedicate specific funding to building the trail, and new budgets will have to be established for this pur pose. Recent allocation of federal gas tax dollars to local governments, including the CRD, has provided a pool of funds to invest in alter native transportation projects. The CRD has allocatde $4 million to cycling projects from their share of the funding, and some $2 million for pedestrian facilities over the next four years. T he money will be shared by 13 municipalities that make up the region, but some funds can apply to the rail trail project. Local municipalit ies with a direct stake in the project can be expected to find room in their budgets to spend on the project but several million dollars more are likely to be needed to complete the trail. Federal and Prov incial Support Both federal and provincial governments with responsibilities for environment, health, transpor tation and tourism should have an interest in partnering with local governments to fund this important project. Both have previously funded trails and other projects aimed at supporting trails and alternative transportation projects.