A local cycling group has received a $50,000 grant to look into the feasibility of a low-carbon mix of walking, cycling, bus, and passenger rail modes of transport between Nelson and Castlegar.
The plan envisions a network of bike paths separated from traffic, as well as transit stops, ties to other regional trails, a footbridge across the Kootenay River at Taghum, utilization of community halls as hubs along the way, and even an electric passenger train.
How feasible is this? The West Kootenay Cycling Coalition (WKCC) will use the grant money to pay an expert consultant to find the answer.
The WKCC’s Solita Work says the plan is ambitious, but she thinks the group should aim high.
“We have the technology to move to a lower carbon way of living, but we just haven’t built the infrastructure to support that,” she said.
The WKCC’s plan is described in more detail at https://bit.ly/3Ae7HuM.
The grant came from the Infrastructure Canada Active Transportation Fund, which is providing $400 million over five years to support a transportation shift away from fossil fuels.
The federal government requires grant applicants to have a municipal government partner to apply for the money and administer it. The Regional District of Central Kootenay board, at its March 17 meeting, agreed to do just that for this feasibility study.
The RDCK’s corporate officer Mike Morrison told the Nelson Star that, as the administrator of the funds, the RDCK will require that there be a competitive process in selecting the consultant. He said the RDCK will help the group to initiate and administer a request for proposals. Work says she expects the process will be completed by early October.
She said WKCC intends to consult the public on the plan, and she is optimistic that it will be popular.
“There is a lot of people that would love to ride a bike or even just be able to walk between the various communities in between Nelson and Castlegar,”she said. “But there’s really no safe route.”
She said the plan does not expect people to walk all the way between Nelson and Castlegar but between smaller places on the route.
Although the feasibility study will help to decide what parts of the plan are realistic, Work is optimistic about all aspects of it. For example, she says an obvious partner in the project would be CP Rail.
“Everyone thinks that CP Rail is going to be impossible to convince … but I’m optimistic about that, too, because they’re not going to have oil and gas transport forever, and they know that they have to transition to more renewable modes.
“And so I think that if they included passenger rail when they’re electrifying trains, that just sounds like a win-win.”