Home Business & Economy Travel & Transportation Graffiti cleanup reignites Island Rail Corridor survival debate

Graffiti cleanup reignites Island Rail Corridor survival debate

3 hours to repaint the graffiti | 7 months to save the rail corridor

Thursday August 4, 2022 | LANGFORD, BC [Updated August 5, 2022]

by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends

On a hot summer Tuesday this week (August 2), some graffiti on a railway overpass that bridges over Island Highway in View Royal was being painted over.

The painter — roller brush in hand — was high up over the roadway (about 18 to 24 ft) in a ‘cherry picker’. Southbound traffic was slowed down into a single accumulator lane approaching the intersection of the Highway 1 off ramp onto Island Highway (at the westbound inflow lane of Island Highway onto the main stretch through View Royal into Colwood).

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) has said today in a statement to Island Social Trends, that the ministry’s maintenance contractor Emcon Services Inc (South Island Division) painted over the graffiti at the railway overpass on August 2, completing the work in about three hours.

island highway, bridge, graffiti
Graffiti on a railway overpass above Island Highway in View Royal was painted over by a Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure contractor on August 2, 2022. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

Seeing red:

The original background colour of the side of the trestle was dark grey or black. The over-painting was done with solid dark burgundy red, over the graffiti words ‘MIDNIGHT MONKEYS’ that were painted in grey and black. (It’s possible the final coat of paint was restored in black, we’ve not been back yet to check.)

That wasn’t the only ‘seeing red’. There had been several public complaints received by the Town of View Royal, as noted by their Engineering Department on Monday when contacted by Island Social Trends.

“The ministry understands that a number of complaints were received by the Town of View Royal which were communicated to the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) and subsequently passed on to the ministry,” it was stated by MOTI today.

Mitzi Dean

“As this is a railway overpass, discussions are now underway with the ICF regarding responsibility for future maintenance and graffiti cleanups,” the MOTI spokesperson said today.

Public comments:

Public comments in social media on Tuesday — in response to Island Social Trends posting a photo of the paint-over — included that likely more graffiti will happen again in the future.

In that context, it’s smart for the ICF to have a strategy and budget in place to deal with any such future incidents.

public comment, island rail, graffiti
Public comments on Island Social Trends posting about the graffiti on the rail bridge overpass at Island Highway in View Royak, August 2, 2022. [Island Social Trends / Facebook]

Who is responsible for the trestle & corridor?

What this graffiti incident on a trestle (rail overpass bridge) seems to have surfaced is some tension among MOTI, ICF and the municipality — in this case View Royal, though there are several other municipalities through which the Island Rail Corridor presents its path.

Railways are under federal jurisdiction in Canada, but federal regulations apply only to certain railways which meet one or more of the following conditions:

  • They operate in more than one province.
  • They operate from the United States and cross the Canada–United States border.
  • They are owned, controlled, leased or operated by a person who operates a railway that is within the jurisdiction of parliament.
  • They are declared by the Canadian Parliament to be a work for the general advantage of Canada or of two or more provinces.

From Victoria, upisland to Courtenay:

The Island Rail Corridor — formerly known as the Esquimalt & Nanaimo (E&N) Rail Corridor — is approximately 289 km running between Victoria and Courtenay with connections between Parksville and Port Alberni and to the Nanaimo waterfront, as outlined by the BC Government.

stevenson, young
The special moment handshake, celebrating the unveiling of Langford Station, May 20, 2022: Larry Stevenson (left) and Langford Mayor Stew Young. [Island Social Trends]

In Langford, the rail corridor runs right through the town center area; the city has even named a social gathering spot with a railway theme, calling it The Langford Station (on Station Avenue) which officially opened mid-June and is open for business year-round Thursday through Sunday. As part of the venue launch, it was stated as a hope that other stops along the corridor would also be able to develop similar small-business and community social opportunities.

When the blue bridge in Victoria was updated a few years ago (reopened in March 2018 to carry three lanes of Esquimalt Road), the rail component was not included. So the rail corridor presently ends in Esquimalt (where apparently First Nations have other preferred intentions for that land), not crossing over the harbour into downtown Victoria.

Future of the rail corridor:

Yesterday Alistair MacGregor, MP (Cowichan-Malahat-Langford) said he would be meeting with the ICF co-chairs and their executive director today. The graffiti issue might come up. But their meeting is more about the much larger concern about the overall fate of the rail corridor.

alistair macgregor, mp
Alistair MacGregor, MP (Cowichan-Malahat-Langford) is taking on the Island Rail Corridor file, to try and prevent loss of the corridor — Aug 3, 2022. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

Recently a federal court ruling said that the First Nations who have land along the corridor must sort out ownership or usage rights with the federal government; this action apparently needs to be done before March 2023. That’s only about seven months to go.

MacGregor says he will work with fellow island MPs — Randall Garrison (Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke), Lisa Marie-Barron (Nanaimo-Ladysmith), and Gord Johns (Courtenay-Alberni) — to put pressure on the federal government to engage in negotiations with First Nations. The goal is for the Island Corridor to not be lost for use by south island municipalities as a transportation corridor now or in the future.

The Island Rail Corridor, previously the Esquimalt & Nanaimo (E&N) Railway, is a railway operation on Vancouver Island and is the only remaining railway on Vancouver Island after the closure of the Englewood Railway in November 2017. The Island Corridor Foundation owns the former Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway corridor and it’s operated under contract by the Southern Railway of Vancouver Island.

“There are growing calls for the federal government to provides resources to assist in the ongoing negotiations that are currently stalling the project,” said MacGregor’s office in a statement after the meeting with ICF.

What hope?

Yesterday Premier John Horgan (who is MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca) told media that he does not have high hopes for resolution about use of the corridor. For his entire time in elected office (since 2005) he has been dealing with the issue.

john horgan, west shore, campus
Premier John Horgan addressed media in Langford on August 3, 2022. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

Three studies about the E&N have been done by Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

Yesterday Langford Councillor Lanny Seaton — a long-time rail enthusiast — told Island Social Trends that federal and provincial funding to help restore the rail corridor would be helpful.

On July 14, the Capital Regional District (CRD) passed a motion calling for federal-provincial collaboration on the the Island Rail Corridor.

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