Cyclists, pedestrians and outdoor lovers of all stripes suddenly have a lot to be excited about in Vancouver.
After years of dispute, the city of Vancouver has finally reached an agreement to buy the Arbutus Corridor rail route from Canadian Pacific Railway. The nine-kilometre-long stretch of track – which hasn’t been used in 15 years – extends all the from False Creek in downtown Vancouver to near the Fraser River on the city’s south side.
With the $55-million acquisition, the city plans to transform the corridor into one giant greenway. Designed for use by cyclists and pedestrians, the new pathway will connect neighbourhoods stretching all the way from False Creek to Marpole, slicing across some of the prettiest (and priciest) parts of the West Side en route. The city is also considering using a portion of the corridor for public transit, either in the form of a streetcar or light rail.
The deal brings to a close a long and contentious dispute over how much the corridor was worth and exactly what it could be used for. The railway last saw service in 2001. In the absence of rail traffic, residents along the route had converted sections of the corridor into lush community gardens.
But the situation deteriorated in 2011 when negotiations by the city to buy the 42-acre tract of land collapsed. The city had offered to pay $20 million for the land, but Canadian Pacific asserted that it was worth $400 million fully developed. The Railway then exercised its right to use the old tracks. Community gardens were demolished and removed, in the face of outraged opposition from residents.
The recent agreement thankfully brings that ugly chapter to an end. Moving forward, the city will be seeking input on how to best utilize the new greenway, budgeted to cost from $25 million to $35 million. Early input suggests that the light rail option may not be feasible; meanwhile, many residents hope that new plans include space for community gardens.