I’m sure everyone who was stuck because the Island Highway was closed really wishes there was a bike lane to take instead.
How vulnerable our single transport artery has proven to be. The iron road is no silver bullet, but the recent floods show how foolish we have been to let the original backbone of the island sit derelict for the better part of two decades. With the Island Highway cutoff at multiple locations, a second link could be used to keep Nanaimo and Victoria connected to each other, as well as to Courtenay and Port Alberni. On the mainland, passenger trains have already been used in the evacuation of Hope, while rail is poised to beat highways in the race to reconnect the Lower Mainland with the rest of Canada.
Recreational trails serve the purpose their name would suggest — they are excellent community assets for recreation, but not much else. We must not permanently lose our only viable alternative to moving freight and people via the Island Highway.
In the aftermath of these historic floods, the government must be pressed to finally deliver on years-old promises to repair the island railway. Restoring this key piece of infrastructure connects to other issues as well, such as investing in our post-Covid economic recovery and taking meaningful action to combat the climate crisis that has been brought to our doorsteps in the past few days.