Taking the Pattullo Bridge replacement off TransLink’s balance sheet won’t speed up progress on the region’s other two megaprojects, according to the vice-chair of the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation.
But it’s music to the ears of proponents of the Broadway subway and Surrey light rail transit (LRT).
LISTEN: A Pattullo Bridge replacement has been announced, but how is it going to be paid for?
The Pattullo replacement and the two projects made up the core elements of Phase Two of the mayors’ 10-year-vision on transit and transportation.
The speed at which those two transit projects would proceed, however, was brought into question when Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan was elected chair of the mayors’ council in December, after he suggested that the bridge replacement could possibly be prioritized.
“I don’t know if there is any organization across Canada capable of doing three major projects like that simultaneously and doing them well,” Corrigan told Province columnist Mike Smyth in January.
WATCH: Big funding announcement for Metro Vancouver transit projects
But on Friday, mayors’ council vice-chair Richard Walton argued that the pace of the transit projects was never in question.
“I think you would have seen full steam ahead anyway,” he said.
That’s not exactly how Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner viewed the situation, warning last month that pressing pause on the transit projects would be “incredibly foolish.”
On Friday, she told Global News that by stepping in, the province had saved the mayors a headache.
“I think it’s great that it will allow the other two major capital projects to get under way that much sooner.”
WATCH: Surrey mayor urges quick action on LRT
However, Walton insisted that issues surrounding the Pattullo were in no way linked to the rail projects.
“The announcement today will not have an impact on the timing and on moving forward with the rest of the phase two developments,” he said.
“Those have always been contingent on us finding that final regional portion of funding, and that’s what we’re working on now.”
That hurdle remains unsolved, though Walton said a resolution was “close,” with a solution possible by the end of March.
The costs of the subway and LRT were pegged at $1.98 billion and $2.14 billion, respectively, in 2014, though TransLink has since admitted they will be higher.
WATCH: Metro Vancouver’s transit plans still need $70 million per year
The province and the federal government have each committed to covering 40 per cent of that cost.
Walton said Metro Vancouver was in negotiations with the province on how to cover its own funding gap of about $70 million per year.
Hepner said the solution will likely be a “basket” of funding measures, which could include parking fees, gas taxes or a vehicle levy.
“How we proportion those various options will yet to be determined,” Hepner said.
“I just don’t think that anything would be off the table at this point in the game, until we have a little bit better understanding at the finance committee meeting of how much we could gather, and what those cost the public.”