Move toward regional transport planning hits West Shore roadblock

A traffic jam is developing on the road to the creation of a regional transportation authority.

The Capital Regional District hopes such a body would help address issues such as the Colwood Crawl through prioritizing regional transportation needs and creating a unified voice to better leverage senior government funds.

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The creation of such a service would require the approval of residents through a referendum, an alternative approval process or counter-petition, or the municipality consenting on behalf of residents.

“If any service has regional application, it’s transportation,” said Saanich Coun. Susan Brice, who chairs the committee established by the CRD board for the express purpose of creating the new authority.

But not everyone is on the same page.

Colwood and Langford, worried about potential costs, are on record as being opposed. The municipalities are identified as the two major growth centres in the capital region and are home to many people who commute to downtown Victoria.

In March, Colwood sent a letter to the CRD saying it “strongly objects to the Capital Regional District creating a regional transportation authority or service.”

When the issue was up for debate at a June committee meeting, Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton and Langford Coun. Lanny Seaton voted against the establishment bylaw.

Brice said that no new dollars are planned to be spent to create the service.

“As it’s envisioned now, if it became a service of the CRD, it would take resources from another planning function,” Brice said.

But both Hamilton and Seaton said they are worried about possible unknown costs. Once a municipality is part of a CRD service, it has no alternative but to share in those costs, Hamilton said.

“Right now, they are saying this is a realignment of staff and resources and whatever — fine,” she said. “But without knowing what the real costs are going to be or the potential costs down the road, it makes it difficult to support the need for this to be happening right now.”

Hamilton discounted the suggestion that the “need” is the thousands of cars stuck in the daily commute to and from the West Shore.

“What’s going to change? Be honest. What would change? Whoever is operating and running this, what would change?” she said. “They [would] have no more authority to do anything different than what exists right now.”

Asked about his opposition, Seaton said: “In my opinion, they really don’t want Langford, they just want our money.”

He said his council will have to examine the proposed service closely before deciding whether the municipality wants to participate, adding that a cost-benefit analysis of the service should be undertaken.

“I don’t think we’re totally against this — we’re just a little leery,” Seaton said. “Every time Victoria gets a problem, all of a sudden it becomes a CRD issue and then we’re paying for it.”

CRD staff are recommending that they meet with local councils and report back before a decision is made on the approval process.

Amalgamation Yes, meanwhile, seized on the positions of Colwood and Langford as yet another example of governance dysfunction in the region.

“A comprehensive transportation plan is essential to our region,” said John Vickers, spokesman for the non-profit group, in a statement.

“Unfortunately, our municipal leaders, once again, and as with sewage, cannot come to agreement on a transportation initiative.”

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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