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Survey finds Sydney, N.S., residents in favour of rail trail

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For years, there has been talk about transforming a section of abandoned rail line along Kings Road in Sydney, N.S., into a rail trail.

Now a new study suggests the people who live closest to the tracks want to see them torn up to make it happen.

"They surveyed over 700 people - residents along this area along with businesses as well,” said Jarret Gosbee, a member of an active transportation group that conducted the survey along with four Cape Breton University students.

The study found 86 per cent of those polled were in favour of having a multi-use path along Sydney Harbour for walking and cycling, rather than the return of commercial rail.

"It's a direct path, protected the entire length as well as a lot of economic benefits for tourism right along our harbor,” Gosbee said.

Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM) councillor Eldon MacDonald said while a rail trail would make it easier for people to get around a growing city, there are other things to consider - not the least of which is the fact CN purchased a stake in the Cape Breton rail line last November.

"For us, CBRM, we've been advocating for a link there for active transportation for many years,” MacDonald said. "I look forward to having some discussions with CN, and CN coming to the table. As I said, Genesee & Wyoming over the years wasn't really a favourable candidate to do that."

Cape Breton University recently proposed a light rail line that would be used by students and the public.

Gosbee feels the community could have all of that, and an active transportation path along Kings Road.

"I think that's actually kind of a common thing with light rail systems. You would have a light rail and a trail that runs next to it,” Gosbee said.

While having the data from the survey is one thing, Gosbee knows getting anything done with it - or with the tracks that have sat idle for 10 years - is another.

"We're hoping that we just have a spot at the table when it comes to any future projects along this corridor,” Gosbee said. “We can say 'yes/and' to all projects."

An earlier report estimated the cost of converting the tracks into a multi-use trail at roughly $2.2 million, while creating a path alongside the existing rail line would cost roughly $8 million more.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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