Alberni Clayoquot Regional District directors are voting on an agreement in principle that will see them ante up $115,00 to the Island Corridor Foundation for track infrastructure upgrades.
A recommendation favouring the proposal was outlined to Port Alberni city councillors at their Monday meeting.
Directors were set to vote on the matter at their Wednesday meeting, after the News went to press.
The funds are part of the $3.2 million the ICF is requesting from its five member regional districts. Alberni’s share will be in the form of a grant-in-aid, ACRD chief administrative officer Russell Dyson said.
The city has two seats on the ACRD. The city’s share of the contribution would therefore be $46,000. If the region votes against it and the city forges ahead then its share jumps to $70,000.
The investment would be underwritten with a tax. If the region buys in then the tax would equate to $4.20 per average household; if the city goes it alone then it would be $6.30.
The money will be used to repair 48 bridges between Victoria and Courtenay. But Alberni’s agreement is subject to securing a commitment from the ICF to repair the Alberni section of the track within a reasonable time, a report to ACRD board members notes.
Upgrades in the eastern corridor is essential if the Alberni section is to be used again. “The best opportunity to export freight is the Alberni corridor,” ICF official Graham Bruce said.
The Industrial Heritage Society’s operation of a steam train to and from McLean Mill won’t be affected by the pending track repairs, the report notes. There is also the possibility that the IHS may get to make some of the railroad ties needed for the upgrades.
The initiative has also kick-started talks between Southern Rail and Compliance Energy about shipping coal by rail between Comox and Alberni, Bruce said. If the other work goes ahead then the company may be willing to invest some money into a new line, Bruce said.
Coun. Hira Chopra spoke against the motion. The Alberni work has no definite timeline and the ICF wasn’t originally supposed to come to the regional districts for any money, he said.
“Can’t the money (for Alberni work) be put into trust until the work is done,” Chopra asked. Bruce said no.
The recommendation is an agreement-in-principle only and will be considered for final adoption at the 2013 grant-in-aid process, the report notes.