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Railway will boast longest paved path in Richmond

To pave or not to pave. That is the question facing some city councillors mulling the future of the Railway Avenue corridor.

Plans for the first $2.5-million phase of development along the corridor call for a paved trail stretching 3.7 kilometres, from Granville Avenue in West Richmond to Garry Street in Steveston. At city hall late yesterday, council’s parks and recreation committee heard the public trail would provide pedestrians, cyclists and other wheeled users the first long continuous stretch of hard surface for recreational use in Richmond.

But Coun. Harold Steves said blacktop could ruin the city’s chances of securing a light rail transit system in the corridor.

“If we went and paved (it), the same thing that happened to Cambie Road in Vancouver might happen here,” said Steves, referencing Canada Line’s challenges in securing a route on Cambie.

The province is launching consultations on a new Highway 99 crossing to replace the George Massey Tunnel, and with the first public meeting set for Dec. 1, Steves said Richmond should be promoting a light rail transit option that could link with Railway, Granville and Shell corridors.

Coun. Evelina Halsey-Brandt doesn’t agree. She said it’s important that Richmond get a paved pathway for wheeled traffic—including strollers and rollerbladers—and noted asphalt is easy enough to remove.

“It’s not easy to be on wheels on any of our perimeter dykes,” she said. “We’re going to have this wonderful trail that goes from Granville all the way up to Garry Street. It’s time to allow everyone in Richmond to have access to it.”

The four-metre wide two-way asphalt trail is proposed to be built on the rail bed of the former Canadian Pacific lands the city now owns. Staff say the rail bed is eyed to save on the construction cost.

The corridor used to be home to an interurban tram line that connected Steveston with downtown Vancouver.

The trail will connect with the city-owned Branscombe House at Steveston Highway and Railway Avenue—a city-owned heritage building that is marked for restoration. A public washroom will be built on the home’s exterior to accommodate trail users.

Preliminary work on the corridor began in 2011 with the clearing of invasive plants and removing organic material on the rail bed surface.

The trail—if approved by city council—is scheduled to be built in 2013.

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