Councilors Ben Isitt and Lisa Helps are asking for public input on whether the replacement Johnson Street Bridge design should be changed so that one of the three car lanes could be upgraded to rail in the future. They have no idea how much this would cost, which makes it kind of like asking the public “do you like puppies?”
Mayor Dean Fortin has warned that switching to a rail-upgradable design will waste some of the $2 million spent on design work so far and jeopardize the $12 million in federal funding contingent on completion by March 2012. Given that everything Fortin said about the Bridge before the election was spin, I’m not sure his election win is enough that we should listen to him.
One argument against spending a dime on rail-upgradability is that rail would be used entirely by people living in other municipalities, so Victoria taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for it. But mass transit to downtown would increase the value of downtown for offices and shopping that will result in increased taxes and prevent sprawl (like Uptown).
My argument is that we have absolutely no evidence that there will be demand for mass transit over the Bridge in the next 100 years. BC Transit has said that their first priority is the Douglas Street corridor, followed by mass transit to UVic. Only after that is built would a transit line running through Esquimalt be considered.
Ben Isitt says that we’ll need rail on the bridge after Peak Oil. But there is no regional strategic plan for mitigating Peak Oil. He shouldn’t just be coming up with this plan in his head as potential mitigation strategies occur to him.
Victoria has an infrastructure deficit. That means that every dollar invested in future infrastructure is a dollar that isn’t spent to keep the infrastructure we currently have.