Vancouver buys $C55 million rail line for future trail

International Transportation Urbanism
Arbutus Greenway rendering (City of Vancouver via CBC News)

Arbutus Greenway rendering (City of Vancouver via CBC News)

In just the past half decade, rails-to-trails conversions have blossomed en masse. New York City has its High Line (and will eventually have a Low Line), while Chicago now has The 606. Atlanta’s BeltLine is under construction with an expected completion by 2030. It seems that every city wants a rails to trails project, and now Vancouver has taken concrete steps toward joining that club.

Earlier this March, the City of Vancouver made a deal with Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) to convert an old railway into a walking and biking greenway. The city will pay $C55 million (about $U.S.40 million) for the just over 5.5 mile corridor that would start near False Creek (in the heart of the city), run south to Marpole (at the city’s edge), and continue further to the west of Highway 99.

“CP Rail has owned the land for more than a century, but it hasn’t run trains on it for about 15 years. Vancouver had previously offered to buy the land, but the two sides could never agree on a price,” reported CBC News in Canada. “At one point, CP argued that the land was worth $[C]400 million, a figure the city disputed.”

The dispute between the city and CP made its way to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2006, which gave the city the right to develop the land. But it also effectively railbanked the Arbutus corridor, which will allow CP to carry light rail next to the future walking and biking path. The proposed greenway development is expected to cost up to $35 million.

The first rail trail in the U.S.—the Wisconsin Elroy-Sparta State Trail—opened in 1967. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a Washington, D.C. based nonprofit, is trying to create trail systems within 3 miles of 90% of Americans by 2020. To learn more, here is a searchable database and interactive map of U.S. rails-to-trails.

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