Brockville Ontario - The city's rail tunnel project is $250,000 closer to its $4 million fund raising goal thanks to a newly-created provincial grant.
As part of its 150th anniversary celebrations, the province announced Tuesday the Brockville Railway Tunnel Committee is among 200 community groups that will receive funding from the Ontario 150 community capital program, and will receive the money over the course of the next six months.
Councillor David LeSueur, chairman of the tunnel committee, said the money will go directly toward the cost of an elaborate lighting system that comes at a cost of about $1 million.
"I got the email this morning," he said on Tuesday.
"We still need just under a million dollars to open up the tunnel for August, so this is a big help."
Restoration of the railway tunnel, deemed Canada's oldest, is among Brockville's more prominent infrastructure projects for 2017, and work is well underway for the project's first phase, which aims to rehabilitate and restore the tunnel and its north-portal gorge.
"The construction is all on time and going quite smoothly. A lot of local contractors have pitched in and done a lot of in-kind work as well," he said.
Currently, workers are securing the tunnel structurally, putting in lighting, security cameras, and laying down a paved walkway.
According to provincial officials, retrofitting Canada's first railway tunnel and the adjacent railway property was an important decision, helping to "foster more active lifestyles," allowing the property to be accessible and available for physical activity, which they said will "have an impact on the lives of 30,000 people in the community."
The first phase is also to include the purchase of the "Rotary Train," a rubber-wheeled vehicle that will ferry tourists between the north and south ends of the tunnel.
LeSueur said the group received $100,000 in funding from the Rotary Club to help purchase the train.
"We've had incredible support so far," he said.
The city has so far committed $300,000 toward the tunnel project, but the rest of the approximately $3.5 million that has been raised has been entirely through donations from throughout the community, including from The Carolyn Sifton Foundation, CN, 1000 Islands Community Development Corporation, and the Rotary Club.
The tunnel group is "on target" to have the first phase done on time for the 10-13 Aug 2017 "Rails to Trails" celebration of Canada's 150th anniversary.
Some of the money already raised, however, was donated specifically for phase two of the project, three acres of land at the north end of the tunnel, so that means they still need to raise less than $1 million in order to open the attraction.
LeSueur said he's confident that will happen, though.
"We are looking for support now from local donors," he said.
"It's probably about the most exciting project that's really hit Brockville in a long time. It's really the project that's going to put Brockville on the map because of its historic significance, it's Canada's first railway tunnel."