$275K study could bring Chelsea, Quebec a train station

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by Mark Burgess on December 17, 2009

Next stop… Chelsea, Quebec?

This could be the case depending on the results of a $275,000 feasibility study examining the addition of a Chelsea station to the Hull-Chelsea-Wakefield Steam Train line.

The study, announced at a Dec. 11 press conference at the Chelsea library, will look at building a station on Innovation Chelsea’s 52 acres at 490 Hwy 105, just north of Old Chelsea Rd. It will look at the site’s physical capacity for the station, the scale and land uses, and the economic implications, while consulting Chelsea residents, businesses and groups.

“This is not a little feel-good study,” said Innovation Chelsea’s Warren Major, a member of the study’s steering committee. “It’s not going to result in more feasibility studies.”

The work is already underway and is set to be finished in January 2010, when the report will become a public document.

But the study could also open the door to broader changes in train service and in the village of New Chelsea. Its mandate goes beyond the steam train and examines the site and what could be added to meet community needs.

When asked whether adding a station could lead to the development of a commuter train to Chelsea,  Mayor Caryl Green said that while that’s not the study’s focus, it doesn’t rule it out.

Major also said that nothing in the study would preclude a commuter train.

“It might even blaze the trail,” he said.

Major said a Chelsea station would allow the steam train to diversify its product, with the potential for educational or historical components at the site, such as a museum.

“It could be quite groovy,” he said.

It could also lead to New Chelsea’s regeneration. Friends of the Steam Train co-president, and New Chelsea resident, Harry Gow said the station could help re-densify New Chelsea, which has become “kind of a straggle of houses along the road” since Hwy 5 was built.

Gow said an old complaint was that Chelsea contributes to the track’s maintenance without seeing any real benefits. A station that draws families and tour buses would provide the type of visitors New Chelsea traditionally doesn’t see.

Major also said the station could open the way to neighbouring senior’s housing, with a residence “piggy-backing” the station that might already be equipped with a kitchen and meeting room.

Outaouais Tourism President Louise Boudria said the study would also look at integrating the train to Old Chelsea village and the Gatineau Park. Expanding on this idea, Major said it also creates the possibility of providing train-and-bicycle or train-and-paddle options, and could lead to the improvement of green infrastructure between the park and the river.

Pontiac MP and Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon called the study “a promising initiative for a community like Chelsea” that would “generate significant economic spinoffs for the region as a whole.”

The federal government provided $206,550 of the funding through the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec. The rest of the money came from the Caisse Desjardins de Hull ($20,000), Innovation Chelsea ($18,350), the CLD ($7,500), the HCW Stream Train ($5,000) and the Community Table’s Outaouais Community Economic Development and Employability Committee (CEDEC), who contributed $10,000.

Outaouais Tourism’s $8,000 funding is pending a final decision.

Deputy Mayor Luc Poulin and councillors Kay Kerman, Marcel Gauvreau and Edmond Hetu all attended the event.